WORCESTER, Mass. – A new exhibit at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is offering visitors a trip down memory lane through the history of video games, and one retro game is stealing the show.

What You Need To Know

  • Video Game Console Wars is an exhibit at Worcester Polytechnic Institute chronicling the history of video games

  • The exhibit spans 1976 to 2001 and this week, Tetris is in the spotlight as the game reaches its 40th anniversary

  • Students and faculty say the game's simple design has helped it stand the test of time 

  • The campus community is having a friendly competition to see who can get the highest score

"Video Game Console Wars" is an exhibit put together by the school’s Interactive Media and Game Design Department, spanning consoles and games from 1976 to 2001.

Arthur Carlson, a university archivist at WPI, said it’s hard not to feel nostalgic walking through the exhibit.

“The first system that I played was Atari,” Carlson said. “My older brother and his friends played on some of the earlier consoles and things like that, and coming through and seeing a little bit of my childhood each day as I come to work is really nice.”

Among all the classic games, however, there’s none quite like Tetris. This week, as the game celebrates its 40th anniversary, the exhibit is showcasing the classic with a copy of it ready to play in their Nintendo Entertainment System console.

Things are quieter around WPI during summer break, but you’ll likely find someone like Gillian McCuistion, an access and outreach archivist at WPI, trying to crack the high score.

“It’s very anxiety-inducing, but I do love the simple game mechanics,” McCuistion said. “I think it's gone down in history and stood the test of time across video games as being one of the most accessible, and kind of the gold standard of video games when it comes to simple game mechanics.”

Just this year, a 13 year-old gamer became the first player to beat the same Nintendo Entertainment System version of Tetris, advancing so many levels that it simply couldn’t keep up.

“I think it's really cool,” said Madelyn Veccia, a game design student. “I watched a YouTube video about the history of it, and the speed-running of it. It’s really cool to see how people can just tear apart this game that's super old.”

Carlson, meanwhile, currently holds the high score in a friendly competition among WPI students and faculty, and even he’s impressed.

“Apparently, he was playing the version where you get to a point where the game can't handle the memory anymore,” Carlson said. “And so essentially, you don't really beat the game. It just doesn't go forward anymore.”

While Tetris is taking center stage on the game’s 40th anniversary, the exhibit is also a chance to reflect on the history of where video games have been, and where WPI students can take them next.

“Taking it as inspiration to see, you know, how can we push that boundary further and further by kind of honoring the legacy of video game design, how games can be made more accessible, and how they can be more representative,” McCuistion said.