The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE) in Oakland, California, will shut down in its current location and move all of its belongings to storage.
Alex Handy, the founder and director of the MADE, said in an interview with GamesBeat that it no longer made sense for the museum to keep its site on Broadway Street, and he said the group could not come to an agreement with the landlord on rent during the pandemic. As a result, the nonprofit that manages the museum will move all of its items to less-expensive storage.
“The goal right now is we’re going to stick it all in storage, probably for a year or two until this stops,” Handy said. “At this point, the pandemic is not going away tomorrow, despite what everybody may hope.”
The museum has been closed since March because of COVID-19, and it has no prospects for a reopening date. Fortunately, the museum has received enough donations over the years to be able to pay for the storage of its wares. But it has a lot of things. I happened to make a trip to the museum Wednesday to donate a bunch of the video games and gear I have accumulated over the years. It was my first trip to the place, and it held a trove of game treasures and memories. Handy gave me what he said would likely be the last tour of the place.
Besides offering tours of video game history and selling old games, the museum held free classes to train youths in Oakland how to make video games and eventually learn programming and math. The museum also held regular game jams (sessions in which developers make games from the ground-up) and Super Smash Bros. tournaments.
Handy, a former tech journalist, created the MADE in 2010 and eventually found a home for it in Oakland. The museum has thousands of games on its racks today, and it has a variety of zany video game paraphernalia, like a poster board for the disastrous E.T. game.
The MADE had some big moments over the years. It obtained the source code for Habitat, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game launched in 1985 by Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar at LucasArts. The game was built for the Quantum Link online service for the Commodore 64 computer. In 2016, MADE uploaded the source code to GitHub for open review, and Farmer and others (Stratus, Fujitsu, and America Online) revived it as an online game called NeoHabitat. You can play it with an original Commodore 64 with a wireless card or an emulator in a browser.
Handy also showed me autographed copies of games by pioneers such as Chris Crawford, Marc Benioff (yes, the guy that became a billionaire from starting Salesforce), and the leaders of Atari like Nolan Bushnell and Allan Alcorn. I laughed when I saw a big box that housed the controller for Steel Battalion, the Xbox game that let you control a mech using a large controller with 44 input points and two joysticks. It was the size of a refrigerator.
There were familiar arcade machines such as Pac-Man as well as the not-so-familiar Radbiker. There was a Rock Band corner with all the gear and a few PC machines to play the myriad PC games from eons ago. I spotted a copy of the PC game A-10 Tank Killer, a 1989 flight sim game which taught me how to make a boot disk and provided hours of entertainment for me in the days of MS-DOS. There are such memories in the museum for just about any video game fan, Handy said.
Over the years, MADE’s sponsors included Dolby, Google, GitHub, PlayStation, and Ubisoft. I was glad I got to see the place once, but I’m sorry to see it go. It’s one more victim of the pandemic, but hopefully, someone will help the museum hang on to our history and bring it back in a form that the public can see again someday.