Thursday, October 31, 2013

Quebec City vs. Pac Man, Game On!

I have two words that will have your kiddos packing up their suitcases and making a break for the border. Video games. The Museum of Civilization (Musée de la Civilisation) in Quebec City has an extensive interactive exhibit on the history of video games, running now through March 16, 2014. We visited last weekend on a quick getaway trip, and I guarantee you if we told the boys we were making the 5+ hour drive again tomorrow they'd be in the car before I finished the sentence. Also it helps that I still haven't unpacked.

Montréal might be chicer and more cosmopolitan, but Quebec City is the beautiful classic Grande Dame of the province. Walking around the streets of the Old Town listening to the unfamiliar sounds of Québecois could easily have you thinking you've stepped back in time. It's hard to believe the only walled city in North America is also home to a thriving and highly successful video game industry.

Four top design studios have offices in Quebec City, making use of the giant abandoned industrial warehouses left over from the glory days of ship building and shoe making. Together along with MO5, a French non-profit working to preserve video game history, they've created the amazing exhibit Game Story/Jeux Vidéo at the Museum of Civilization. It presents a complete history of video games from Pong (1972) to Assassin's Creed (2013), and the chance to play more than 80 of them on their classic consoles.

Showing off the primitive graphics of what we all grew up with was incredibly amusing, and the exhibit is grouped into seven different time periods. I'd forgotten how simple the original Pac Man and Donkey Kong looked, nothing like their arcade versions you see nowadays. The little C&Gs ran from station to station, following the well-written and bilingual instructions at each terminal to play a few rounds of each. Who even knew there was a Miami Vice game, circa 1986?

We spent almost two hours in that exhibit, and the boys got to try their skill at everything from classics all the way up to the high definition best sellers of today. I failed miserably at "Dance Dance Revolution", but did discover the addictiveness of Angry Birds (now fully loaded on my iPad).

I'll write up more on our trip to Quebec City next week (hoping to inspire you as you plan your long weekend or holiday travel), but of course I can't post a museum without a good nearby lunch place. A five minute walk will bring you to La Piazzetta, where you can get delicious thin crust pizza to go with your croque of French onion soup and vin rouge. Order your pizzas as deluxe or as plain as you want, Little C&G and I skipped the escargot topping in favor of simple cheese, but Big C&G ordered his with ham and leeks and declared it magnifique!

The Museum of Civilization is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 to 5:00, and is located in the Old Town on Rue Saint Pierre. Admission for adults is $15CAD, children under 12 are free, and from ages 13-17 admission is $1CAD. Everything in the museum is presented in both English and French, but because I'm taking French Mr. C&G handed me the French audio guide for the Paris exhibit. I understood only half of it, but thoroughly enjoyed the French background music!

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