I believe it was within the first few days of arriving in Moscow when my friend, bless him, informed me of an unique museum (of sorts), the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines. The reason why I say it’s a museum of sorts is that I’m unaware of any museum whose schtick is that you can play all the exhibitions. Indeed, it would be appropriate to say that it’s an arcade of sorts, not a museum. As it says on the tin, one can check out all the old Soviet entertainment games, and it was a treat seeing how the other half derived fun. If you want to try something unique (there’s one in St. Petersburg, which my roommate/colleague visited), this is a must!
To start, finding the MSAM was an interesting trip. In my experience, museums are normally overt and hard to miss. Well, tying in with the theme of Russian museums (at least, the ones I’ve been to/walked by here in Moscow), the MSAM was in semi-seclusion. Once you get off from Baumanskaya metro (on the dark blue line), you basically cross the street and go into the residential area. This is where it can be deceiving, and lord knows it almost threw me off, as you had to fight the urge to turn back. Thankfully, my friend Ashley who so graciously was accompanying me to it, spotted the sign of the musem; it was pretty nondescript that if you blink, you’d miss it in all likelihood. So yeah, it was tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. The museum itself was one story and didn’t take up too much space, but we managed to spend about an hour there, attesting to the joy of games. I thought it was neat how there were vintage water machines, in addition to there being a small cafe. Things like these are what I live for, as it further enhances the charm/atmosphere.
Once we were there, we paid 350 rubles (roughly $5.5) for entry, which included tokens to play the games. Maybe it was because I had a ton of variety in my local arcade growing up and/or I can’t read Russian, but the games seemed a bit basic to me. Nonetheless, I had a blast playing them! My personal favorite was a submarine game, where you had a periscope and you had to try to sink the ships sailing horizontally. While I didn’t sink very many (I would not make a good naval captain, let’s just say), I felt pretty powerful while channeling my inner Hunt for Red October Sean Connery. Other games involved shooting (wild animals, ducks, you name it), a MiG pilot game, racing (which the controls were being wonky on me, so that’s my excuse for not doing too well), and a game very similar to Pong, to name some. One observation was that most of the fellow attendees were my age, if not younger. It warmed my heart to see them enjoying the museum, as I admittedly feared that they would think the games were too boring. The reason why I say this is that I truly believe that looking at a country’s history, particularly through their culture, not only preserves it, but it helps future generations appreciate what their parents and grandparents had. Kids were having a ball with their friends, and everybody I saw was smiling the whole time-no generation gap to speak of!
In conclusion, if you want to spend an hour or so seeing what the Soviet Union’s kids played on, look no further than this wonderfully quaint “museum”. I would recommend bringing friends, as that absolutely enhances the experience. You can find their website for more information at http://www.15kop.ru/en/.