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|The Baby - The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine|
The first ever stored-program computer.
PLAY it Manchester takes place on the 2nd floor of the Museum of Science and Industry. Very apt that below us is The Baby - a replica of the first ever stored-program computer. PLAY it is in a huge space with loads of room, and the all important video games consoles and arcade machines. Tons of seating, a cafe area, and all of your favourite games from the last 30 years. It even has 2 player, 4 player and larger multiplayer games, and it's only £4 entry. Heaven.
My 5 and 6 year olds love their console games and have played and watched since they were tiny. Our family don't watch a lot of regular TV, games are a living room event and we all join in. They've never played on arcade machines before though and the big joystick was a brand new thing to them!
It was awesome to see some great themed areas - the Celebrations area includes Tomb Raider, Mario Kart, and Street Fighter through the years, the LEGO games and behind it a Minecraft server and two banks of players playing together.
There is a Multiplayer Lounge area - so our lads got their first ever taste of how ruthless their Dad is at Micro Machines - however I did still beat him a couple of times.
They also got their first ever taste of Halo - playing on a server in 2 teams with other people in the room - including their Dad!
There were also Celebrations displays of Star Wars and Sonic games - these really took me back, I think I've played all the older ones with my lads over the years!
Along the back edge of the room was the Retro Gaming area full of the wonders of gaming infancy. The amazing Atari and Pong, The Sega Megadrive and in the 80's Classroom Crazy Taxi and those strained text games that were so exciting as we decided whether to 'Face West' or not....Commodore 64 anyone?
There were also areas for Sports Games and Rhythm - we spent many weekends when our big kids were younger playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band, we could really belt out a virtual tune! That holds special memories for us.
We all had a try of the brand new, and incredibly impressive Oculus Rift - the 3D Virtual Reality headset. It was awesome, and hilarious to watch as people realise they can see all around inside the spacecraft. Just for reasons of fairness I did have a go myself so everyone could laugh at me too...
There were a few notable games missing from the event, but there really was something to enchant everyone. It was all organised really well and although our boys did try a couple of games they wouldn't usually be allowed to play at home, it was incredibly family-friendly - our 5 year old spent 10 minutes playing Street Fighter against a complete stranger who was more than happy to chat and play away - they were evenly matched too!
We were there for the 90 minute session, which would have cost us £3 each. It obviously wasn't long enough to sit and work through games, but it was long enough to have a play on everything we wanted to. It was an absolutely awesome event and we all had an excellent time. If you like your gaming then I really can't recommend it enough. My highlight of the whole event was the first Playstation game I sat and played through from beginning to end back in 1996 - Tomb Raider. It was like meeting up with an old friend....
PLAY it will run daily until 9th August. Book in advance for timed 90 minute sessions (£4 each/£12 family), day sessions (£10 each), and special adult-only evening sessions. PLAY it is not really suited to children under 5, and all under 16's must be accompanied by an adult.
Entry to the Manchester Museum of Science And Industry is free for everyone, although donations are very welcome. They have a whole programme of events during the holidays, including free science crafts and activities for children - we made simple circuits with copper tape....
We were given a free family entry with a value of 12 whole English pounds to attend and review PLAY it - I'd have happily paid because it was an excellent 90 minutes - plus the 3 hours we also spent in the museum!