Soviet Arcade Machines Showcased at St. Petersburg Museum

It’s fair to say that those who grew up under Soviet rule in Russia had a much different early gaming experience – it’s evidenced by the wide array of unique upright and cocktail arcade games available for viewing and playing at the Museum of Soviet Arcade Games in St. Petersburg, Russia.

While the Cold War may have prevented the people of the USSR from gaining full exposure to Western culture during the golden age of arcade games, unfounded historical opinion reports that the leaders of the time were entranced by arcade games during their travels to the United States and prompted engineers in their own country to create replicas, albeit with propaganda-laced messages.

What Do Visitors Find in the St. Petersburg Museum?

The games present in the museum can be played by visitors, but they are quite different than one would expect. First, they are extremely bulky and heavy, weighing up to 375 pounds because at the time of construction Russia had no access to alternate materials.

Also, the plots of the games aren’t completely innocent and fun-focused – they usually express Marxist ideas. For instance, no games involving fantasy were allowed. Game developers did not model their ideas off of popular Western hits. Instead, they made games that celebrated work and Communism. They were also intended to hone the skills of the gamers as related to reaction, critical thinking and coordination.

The Rare Games May Not Last Forever

While the museum has collected about 60 different games, many have been destroyed. After the Soviet Union fell, many of the machines were recycled for materials. Additionally, the machines’ blueprints and manuals were originally printed in government facilities, so they qualify as classified documents. This means the majority of the guidelines on how to restore the Soviet-era arcades are lost.

The Museum of Soviet Arcade Games isn’t just a place to visit and play long-forgotten arcade titles of Russia’s past – a visit is a glimpse into what life was like for those coming of age under Soviet rule and showcases an important part of the country’s storied and sometimes troubled history.