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Our favorite gaming studios, expos, museum exhibits—in a photo blowout

When we publish galleries dedicated to gaming exhibitions, events, and landmarks, it’s not a way to put off writing work. For one, we have to write all of the freaking captions (and also try to make some of them equal parts funny and informative). There’s also the matter of a bunch of trained writers doubling as professional photographers while finding ourselves overstimulated by the coolest video games old and new. Hey. It’s a living.

But while the work of shooting, editing, touching up, and publishing these collections is more involved than they might look, we love making them. There’s something to be said about basking in the glow of an expertly crafted gaming-event gallery. I liken it to the digital equivalent of a freshly mowed yard. There’s a certain, I dunno, majesty to it. At least, without the whole “sunlight” thing.

Thus, to conclude our dedicated Ars Gaming Week event, we invite you to bask in years of our digital yard work, all taken from our favorite gaming-related events.

Exhibits: Three game-filled museums across the USA

When we heard that a traveling 2015 museum exhibit would combine the words “Smithsonian” and “gaming history,” we rushed over with a camera and a critical eye. The resulting exhibit technically revolved around centuries of American innovation in “consumer technology.” In good news for us, that meant video games, toys, and other electromechanical fare figured prominently behind glass, which you can see in our gallery below. (Click through the article’s link for more non-gaming photos from the exhibit, but we left the calculators in here.)

Unlike the Smithsonian’s traveling, limited-time exhibit, the National Videogame Museum in Frisco, Tex., is a dedicated, year-round home for some of the most tantalizing gaming rarities we’ve ever seen. Our 2016 stroll through its many exhibits is too massive to reproduce in this article; I strongly advise anyone who drools at the below collection of prototype hardware to click through for even more rare games-industry memorabilia. (After that, book a flight to the Dallas area and see it for yourself.)

In 2014, we visited the Indie Game Revolution exhibit at Seattle’s MoPOP Museum (formerly Experience Music Project), with the caveat that the whole thing would be dismantled within two years. Turns out, MoPOP has left the exhibit intact as late as 2019 and has even continued regularly updating its showcased games. The below gallery is from an opening-day press preview and thus revolves around games from five years ago. (Their Tenya Wanya Teens cabinet is still one of the rarest arcade cabinets in the world, and I recommend anybody near Seattle check it out if they like the weirdness of Katamari Damacy.)

Gaming pilgrimages: Firaxis, Valve, and the city of Tokyo

On the eve of Civilization: Beyond Earth‘s launch in 2014, developer Firaxis invited fans to a first-of-its-kind Firaxicon event. Our own Kyle Orland took advantage of living near the studio’s Maryland headquarters to swing by, and he snapped photos of everything he could while there, which you can click through below.

We’ve been fortunate to visit Valve Software’s headquarters a few times, and that means we’ve cataloged two of the company’s offices. Our most recent visit included many snaps of Valve’s current Bellevue, Wash., headquarters, which is pictured below. The associated article includes even more photos of other Valve office zones, including a room full of rare merch and a kid’s playpen. You can also rewind time to the company’s Redmond, Wash., offices and see even more rare concept art and office decorations in an article dedicated to 2016’s SteamVR reveal.

We’ve never toured a Japanese video game studio, though based on what we’ve seen in documentaries, those offices tend to be quite drab. Still, we’ve definitely been to the home nation of such monumental companies as Taito, Nintendo, Sega, and more, and that means we’ve explored its many expansive arcades—which continue to thrive in bustling districts like Akihabara. Kyle Orland documented his Japanese travels as part of his Tokyo Game Show coverage in 2013, while I documented my own visit a few years later. The below gallery includes a variety of arcade machines, and it runs in semi-chronological order in terms of earlier, more historic machines first, followed by newer, card-based examples later. (Click through to its source article for even more arcade photos, along with a ton of shots from retro gaming stores and a few board game shops, to boot.)

Expos: Cosplay, weird controllers, and esports

This section begins with one of our favorite near-annual traditions: going hands-on, feet-on, and even butt-on (not “button,” we’re seriously talking tushies) with some of the weirdest gaming controllers ever made. The Game Developers Conference has hosted an “Alt Ctrl” pavilion for many years running, filled out with one-off experiments made by small, indie teams (including some really cool college-program creations). The below gallery highlights some gems from the 2017 collection, while other years are just a click away: 2015, 2016, and 2019.

Ars Technica is far from a dedicated esports resource, but we never pass up an opportunity to watch pro gamers be the very best, like no one ever was. Our trips down esports-gallery lane include games like Rocket League and Dota 2, but arguably our archives’ funnest event is the most homegrown one we’ve ever seen. In 2016, Super Smash Con was loudly operating as a celebration of the GameCube classic Super Smash Bros. Melee, even as Nintendo pressed forward with its 2014 version of the series for Wii U. You can argue that the older game is better for mechanical reasons (wavedash, all day), but we prefer to let community events like this, in the below gallery, count as a significant metric. (Super Smash Con still operates to this day, though it currently makes room for the series’ triumphant Switch version.)

The Super Smash Con gallery includes a healthy dollop of cosplay, which is a good reminder that most of our convention coverage has included snapshots of fans dressed as their favorite gaming and geek-culture characters. Picking a favorite is hard, because the events we’ve attended have all had their share of incredible, handmade handiwork. But we’ll focus on PAX East 2016 in the below gallery. (Though, really, you should hit up our “cosplay” tag collection for even more gaming costumes modeled over the past seven-plus years.)

Listing image by Kyle Orland

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