Let the games begin – Sheffield’s newest museum to open its doors to 50,000 in first year

Haadiya Mustasfa at the new National Videogame Museum in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees
Haadiya Mustasfa at the new National Videogame Museum in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees

A new museum celebrating the past, present and future of videogaming will open in Sheffield tomorrow.

The National Videogame Museum will welcome its first visitors to the former Castle House building in Sheffield city centre on Saturday morning, after moving from the Nottingham base where it has spent the last three and a half years.

It is hoped it will attract more than 50,000 gamers to the city every year, allowing people of all ages to play, learn and create all at the same time.

Museum director, Iain Simons, took time out of his busy schedule earlier this week to give The Star a sneak peak behind behind the scenes.

He said: “In Nottingham we were the National Videogame Arcade but this will be the first time we will be a museum - but we want to be a different type of museum.

“Here there are no glass cases and you will be able to use everything and see how it works. It is a museum you can touch - and if it breaks we can fix it.”

Culture Director Iain Simons at the new National Videogame Museum in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees

Culture Director Iain Simons at the new National Videogame Museum in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees

The museum currently has about 80 playable games but Iain said this will increase as it develops and grows over the coming months.

“How we approach it is that the museum is alive - it will never be finished and it will always be changing,” he says.

“When people come back they are going to discover something different every time.”

Part of that is not slavishly following the latest trends and filling their museum with the newest games and biggest sellers.

Head of Marketing Emma Cooper and Jane Sheilds (project co-ordinator ) at the new National Videogame Museum in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees

Head of Marketing Emma Cooper and Jane Sheilds (project co-ordinator ) at the new National Videogame Museum in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees

“People who have bought Red Dead Redemption 2 can play that at home,” says Iain.

“Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Mario and Sonic are all brilliant games but it is a bit like being into only one type of music.

“There are loads of people out there making really interesting games.

“I don’t mean to say the museum is going to be full of weird stuff but it is going to have things than you wouldn’t get at home.”

Culture Director Iain Simons at the new National Videogame Museum in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees

Culture Director Iain Simons at the new National Videogame Museum in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees

However, as well as featuring the full array of what games currently are, the museum also wants to allow people to imagine what the future might hold.

They will show unfinished games in the hope of explaining how developers create them, thereby inspiring the next generation to make adventures of their own.

“It’s really exciting that off the back of this some nine-year-old girl from Sheffield might make a game after coming here that is totally different.

“The tools you need to make a game are now really cheap and sometimes they are free. It was the same when acoustic guitars became widely available and with the rise of video cameras you end up with Quentin Tarantino.”

But as well as play, Iain wants the museum to be a place where people can socialise and talk about games in a way that hasn’t yet become commonplace.

“Games take up more time than any other media but they are talked about the least,” he says.

“I think most parents now know that videogames are not evil but they don’t understand what Fornite is.”

Part of that conversation will be the ‘Pixelheads’ club for young people - sort of a Scouts or Guides for games.

Starting on Saturday mornings in January, they will work with kids and and families to equip them with a better understanding of what is going on in gaming and hopefully make families more likely to have shared experiences.

The museum takes up the whole bottom floor of the former Castle House building in Castlegate - and is a major part of the council’s £3million ‘Kollider’ digital hub regeneration project.

They say that since they made the decision to relocate, they have been made to feel really welcome by the city, including by the council, both universities and other museums.

But as well as the warm welcome they received from the city, Iain says Sheffield’s impressive video gaming heritage was also a big factor on their decision to move here.

This includes legendary 1980s developers Gremlin Interactive all the way up to huge modern studios like Sumo Digital and smaller companies like Boneloaf carrying the torch for the city's gaming industry today.

“We have recently been taking to Kelham Island Museum and there is a sense among some out there that in Sheffield everything stops with steel but it is not true,” says Iain.

“There is a huge culture of innovation and technology in this city - and that continues to this day.”

The National Videogame Museum will be open to the public and school trips on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays - and in the school holidays will be open every day.