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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Are You Game?


Sci-Port looks at evolution of games

Sooner or later, it had to happen. A museum or public exhibit space was bound to cook up a show about one of the ubiquitous machines of our times — the game console. Sure enough, Sci-Port is unveiling Game-Port, a new summer exhibit to showcase some classic video game consoles and what their innards look like.

Taking a cue from the 1980s movie “War Games,” the popularity of video games of all stripes exploded in living rooms, man caves and game parlors worldwide.

According to its press release on the summer program, “SciPort Discovery Center’s Game-Port exhibit will look at the evolution of games and digital gaming; from historic board games like Candy Land, checkers and backgammon to classic and newer digital games that can be played with a giant, custom-made, retro-inspired game controller.”

Pong, considered by many as the grandfather of all video games, has been reimagined for the exhibit into “Port Pong,” featuring an overhead playing area and participants standing in special portals using their hands to volley the “ball” back and forth.

There will also be game-inspired “Putt-Putt” golf; a “Mousetrap”-inspired pneumatic chair lift; a larger than life “Simon Says”; and a nod to “Angry Birds” among others. The “Game Guts” area will feature the inner workings of classic game-playing systems from the past 30 years.

The exhibit was developed by Ryan McCutcheon, Bonné Summers and Luke Lee.

Ian Summers, manager of marketing and communication marketing for Sci-Port, said they had been kicking the idea of finding an exhibit to bring a different demographic to the Discovery Center.

“People think if you’re a middleschooler or high schooler or adult, there’s nothing for you to do,” he said. “Sci-Port’s open to anyone with a love of science. You don’t have to be a kindergartner to enjoy Sci-Port.”

Game-Port is designed as an interactive summertime exhibit to teach and inspire guests with the benefit of increasing critical thinking and strategic skills. Dianne Clark, executive director of Sci-Port, said, “We have a unique position as a local leading STEM-based attraction and science center to combine learning and playing in a physical space while using digital elements and technology.”

Summers added, “It’s actually a multigenerational exhibit. Anyone who’s interested in action entertainment and gaming, taking a retro look at gaming. It’s geared for anyone. We have original systems that we have taken apart so you can see the inside mechanisms. It’s so cool. Like looking at an Atari versus a PlayStation. Going from fourbit encryption to 32-bit encryption on the system, looking at the change in the design of the microchips and things like that, how much smaller they’ve gotten.”

Summers said Shreveport has a unique connection to the gaming industry in that one of the legendary video games, Doom, was created in downtown Shreveport. Software company Softdisk has since been absorbed by another company, but Al Vekovius and his team of developers came up with the first-person shooting game that featured players stranded on Mars and facing attack by numerous aliens.

Also on the summer agenda are esports tournaments where teams will compete via facilities at Contender Esports and the LSUS Cyber Co-laboratory Esports Center.

Those competitions will be viewable in SciPort’s IMAX Theatre.

In partnership with Shreve Memorial Library, the “Maker Van” will be engaging young folks to try their hands at computer coding at several sites throughout Caddo Parish.

On June 19, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Pokémon, the Downtown Development Authority will create a family-friendly Pokémon GO scavenger hunt and an over-21 afternoon-into-evening Pokémon GO Pub Crawl.

“Adventures of Intrigue” will be hosting their version of the gaming fad through an escape-room-style adventure.

On a more scientific note, Sci-Port was selected to receive the Chandra X-ray Observatory from NASA, which will be displayed until fall 2021. The telescope was launched aboard the Shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999. Among its scientific legacy is the first X-ray emission seen from the supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A* [pronounced Sagittarius A-Star], which is located at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Game-Port tickets are $5 for members and $8 for the public. Adventures of Intrigue tickets are $5 for Sci-Port members and $8 for non-members. Regular Sci-Port admission is $15; a Do- It-All pass is $25 per person. Admission to the Chandra X Observatory is included in the admission price. More information is available at www.sci-port.org.

So, if you’re game for a good time, a deep look into the cosmos and a step back in gaming history, Sci-Port might just be the summer destination you’re looking for this year.


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