Museum of Mechanics: Lockpicking – an interesting experience for lovers of video game history | Games

Museum of Mechanics is a fascinating concept – a virtual showroom, showcasing faithfully recreated examples of an idea (in this case lockpicking) of games throughout history, as well as the explanation and analysis of each by the curator. The target audience is game developers, but it’s nice for anyone interested in the history of video games and how they can approach the same idea in so many different ways. I walked away with a renewed appreciation for the thought that goes into these seemingly minor elements of game design.

When you reached a locked door in the original Fallout, your character’s stats and abilities influenced a backstage dice roll to determine if you could unlock it and pass. Games like Skyrim give you onscreen choices that need to be turned into virtual locks. And in Mass Effect, you accessed it by playing a hack minigame (the distinction between lockpicking and hacking is something designer Johnnemann Nordhagen is quite concerned about by the way). All of that is recreated here alongside much more obscure approaches, such as that of the cult Russian plague game Pathologic 2, or the timed rockers of Alpha Protocol. There is a nostalgic interest here for anyone who has played games for a long time – I had forgotten all the time I had tentatively spent feeling locks in fantasy worlds. Now I know exactly how this little mechanic works and why it was so fun to use.

The museum itself is fairly rudimentary: a dark room, with identical locks flagged pointing the way to Nordhagen’s lockpicking mini-game recreations. It sounds and sounds basic, but the amount of effort, knowledge, and understanding of the subject matter (and game design and history in general) that has gone into this mini museum is quite evident, at both in the exhibitions and in the accompanying text. Like listening to someone talk about the doctoral research they are doing on a niche topic, it may seem boring at first, but after an hour you will come away with something you certainly didn’t know before.

Museum of Mechanics: Lockpicking released today (January 13); Steam / itch.io.

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