The Saint Louis Science Center is home to a fun new exhibit, GameXPloration, which will be open until fall 2019.

The goal of the exhibit is to tackle a subject already familiar to visitors and show the science and technology behind it, as well as reach a ‘tween and teen audience.

“Normally, we take a science subject and make it fun, but in this case we took something everyone has done at one time or another (play a game) and ‘science-ify’ it,” says Christina Carlson, project manager for GameXPloration. “The Science Center’s mission is to ‘ignite and sustain lifelong science and technology learning,’ and part of sparking that interest is meeting people where they are with their interests and experiences.”

GameXPloration was designed with the intention of bringing together a diverse and inter-generational audience.

“We wanted to create an environment where anyone can be an expert in at least one area, whether that be chess, a favorite board game, an arcade game from the 1980s or virtual reality,” Carlson says. “With that in mind, the exhibition was also intentionally created with teen audiences in mind. Teens from the Science Center’s Youth Exploring Science (YES) program were even involved in the development and design of the exhibition.”

Even people who think they aren’t into games will find the exhibit fun and interesting.

“We have yet to identify someone who has never played a game,” Carlson says. “Even if it has been a long time since someone has played a game, it is an almost universal human experience. Those who do not consider themselves gamers may be surprised to find they enjoy a part of the exhibition and learn something through play. We attempted to include a wide range of games, from ancient times to futuristic technology, so there really is something for everyone.”

For those already passionate about games, much of the appeal is nostalgia for some of their favorite games from the past, along with sharing their love of games with others.

“We also hope those who are experts on games perhaps learn something new about why games are important and some of the science and technology behind them,” she says.

Many of the exhibits take a familiar game and put a new spin on it, from table tennis in a tube to a giant video game controller that two or more people must play with their feet, and even a basketball game that challenges your sense of perception.

“We have also included an area that allows you to try out virtual reality, as well as an augmented reality climbing wall – the only one in the region – that combines a digital and physical gaming experience,” Carlson says.

The exhibit includes five sections:

Let’s Play
Games have been played since the beginning of recorded history. What is a game? Who is a gamer? Why is play important? Explore all of these topics and climb on an AR (Augmented Reality) Climbing Wall. Take on competitors with some traditional board games and take a new look at chess on a vertical chess board.

Rise of Computers and Consoles
This world explores how the technology of games has evolved over time, from computers and game consoles, to games on mobile devices. Use teamwork to play Super Mario Brothers on a controller so large you need to grab a partner and use your feet to hit the buttons. Check out the first widely known video game, Space War. And see how video games developed and evolved over five decades.

Rise of the Arcade
Games satisfy many core human needs and motivations, including autonomy (desire to have freedom of choice), competence (desire to control outcomes and master skills) and relatedness (desire to be connected to others). This area explores these motivations in arcades. Play Atari 2600: Pitfall, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, tube tennis (table tennis played through a tube), and eight-player foosball. 

A New Reality
Explore how virtual and augmented reality modify our real world with digital technology. Find out how virtual reality and augmented reality are similar and what makes them distinct. Explore Merge Cube, Gamification, HTC Vive and Standalone VR. Check out six-person Mindball and floor projected games.

Game Lab
Become the game creator. Learn about how game developers approach designing games. Play games developed by local developers and companies. Find out how you can become a game designer.

Click here for more information about the GameXPloration exhibit.

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