|1316904. Sun Mar 17, 2019 4:51 pm
|In St Petersburg, Russia, there is a museum dedicated to the arcade games of Soviet Russia.
Every game in the museum has been restored and is 100% playable, giving visitors an insight into the childhood of a USSR kid. The machines operate using Soviet Kopeck coins, in which a matchbox full of 15 Kopecks can be exchanged for 450 rubles (or £5.20).
Some of the attractions on offer are particularly “fun”, such as ‘Victorina’ a game designed to improve one’s familiarity of road signs, and a soda machine that dispenses a tarragon-flavoured, fermented soda using ingredients that haven’t been mass-produced since the collapse of the Union. However, by far the most interesting is ‘Repka’ – an arcade game in which the purpose was to pull a turnip out of your grandma’s garden. Unlike most Soviet arcade games in which they had to align with Marxist ideology and therefore dismissed anything fantastical, Repka goes against this ideology to present players with a structure that mimics a popular children’s story. The player must initially pull the turnip shaped lever to determine how much weight they can pull and thus what character they are designated, with one pulling 0 – 40kg being designated the mouse character to being designated the grandpa character if they can pull in excess of 200kg.
And although to the Western world arcade games were simply created for entertainment, to the Soviets arcade games were a way to train teenagers for the army, with ‘Repka’ actually being a strength building exercise, and other games building eye coordination and logical thinking. Also, unlike its American counterparts, none of the games had high-scores as a way to repress feelings of competition and conform to its socialist principles.
When created in the 1970 and 80s, Soviet arcade machines were built in military factories for these were the only places that could attain the materials needed as well as have the engineering know-how in order to build the games. This being said, the materials used were redistributed from weapons, fridges, and calculators, making them up to 370 pounds in weight and around five times heavier than those from other countries. Furthermore, with being built under the military, any instruction manual produced was technically a classified government document and therefore was inevitably destroyed, making it incredibly difficult to restore these arcade games nowadays.
Among the arcade games in the museum, there was also an exhibition titled ‘What did a Soviet’s childhood smell like?’ that featured everyday items of the Soviet Union such as school breakfasts, Golden Star Balm (bizarrely a product originating from Vietnam), and a lump of tar, which as the name suggests, you could smell through the transparent boxes.
If you’re interested in the games (but not interested to go all the way to Russia to do so), one of the games called ‘Morskoi Boi’ (Sea Battle) is available to play here > http://morskoy-boy.15kop.ru/en/game/
National Geographic, November 2017
Io9, June 2015
Real Russia, November 2018
Great Big Story, November 2016