Up until the late 1990s, Estonia, like many Eastern European countries, had little access to the Western European game market. Instead, a few specific consoles such as Dendy were popular, while unknown elsewhere in the world. Dendy was a “Famiclone”: an unauthorized copy of Nintendo’s Famicom produced in Taiwan for the post-Soviet market. Thus, titles such as Super Mario that enjoyed worldwide popularity in the 1980s only reached Estonia in the 1990s—and on a different platform. Partially translated titles (in Russian) and “compilations” of several games on one cartridge were also common, as were unofficial (and frequently broken) ports between consoles.
Moreover, a common way to play games in Estonia was to visit underground “game clubs,” often located in basements, where for a few crowns one could rent a device to play on. This peculiar scene shaped the country’s “collective cultural memory” (van Dijck 2004) of videogaming and reveals singular ways in which games were experienced, especially during the transition period after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lvlup! Museum is an initiative to reactivate this unforgotten folklore and reconstruct the history of gaming in Estonia through consoles, games, archival materials, and personal narratives.
In the museum, visitors can see the consoles from 1980s alongside with contemporary machines – old meets new and vice versa. Some rarities and interesting ideas from past are on display (for example Power Glove for PlayStation). Our museum is not only about playing the game, but having the unique experiense of beeing at someones living room twenty, thirty years ago. The atmosphere of our rooms is improved thanks to the surrounding artifacts of the past generations.
Address:Pärnu mnt 154, Tallinn, Estonia