Call of Duty and Fortnite leave you cold but OutRun and Space Invaders send a frisson of excitement down your spine, you must have been a child of the 70s or 80s. Of course, whatever your age, you look back on your formative childhood years with a sense of nostalgia, but those were the decades in which something extraordinary was born. It[‘s something that evolved into today’s world where gaming is as commonplace a pastime as watching TV and is enjoyed by everyone.
The Arcade Museum run by Jan Orna is in Červený Újezd, about 20 KM west of Prague. Whether you grew up in the days of Asteroids and Tetris or you want to take a look at gaming’s roots, it’s highly recommended for a visit. After all, modern gaming is becoming ever more immersive, as this site reminded me of its coverage of gaming chair tech, AR glass, and the like. But we would have none of it if we’d not first had those clunky old machines of the mid to late 20th century.
Gaming in the Czech Republic
Prague gets its fair share of gaming nerds among the eight million or so visitors the city welcomes every year. If you plan on counting yourself among their number, it’s well worth taking the 40-minute drive out to Červený Újezd. The village is dominated by a former military barracks that is now an asylum and has a total population numbering only about 100. Still, the horror movie style backdrop provides the perfect setting for Jan Oma’s museum.
Jan is someone who was there in the “golden age.” He played his first video game in the early 1980s when he was about 10, but this was communist Czechoslovakia, and there were no arcades for kids to hang around in. Instead, he experienced the marvels of a traveling funfair, in which second-hand video games, sneaked in from West Germany, were played in darkened tents while the authorities turned a blind eye.
With no service agents to call on when the machines broke down, a generation of self-taught engineers evolved, keeping the lights flashing and the aliens invading by trial and error. By the time communism fell and the Czech Republic was born in the early 90s, there were video games of various vintages stored all around the country. That’s where Jan came in.
More than just a museum
“I never set out to found a museum,” says Jan. But he’s a real gamer, and what started as a personal collection of retro consoles soon evolved into something bigger. When the cabinets began taking over his home and garage, Jan knew he had to do something. Fortunately for all of us, the property in Červený Újezd became available, and the rest is history.
It is more than a museum, though. Sure, there are some exhibits in cabinets, but most of the video games are fully functional and ready to play, from old black and white Space Invaders to more modern crowd-pleasers like Street Fighter. Whatever your age, there’s no better way to spend an afternoon, so give it a look.