In 2020, the majority of our interactions with video games is virtual – games are easily accessible and available online 24/7. However, there are plenty of people who have fond memories of the more physical side of games, whether that be browsing racks in dedicated video game shops, visiting sensory-overload arcades or getting a monthly magazine drop through the door.
Bar the odd game launch being delayed, the consumption of the former is not massively affected by the current coronavirus pandemic – but the same can’t be said for the last remnants of physical gaming. Independent video game shops were a rare occurrence in the UK prior to this situation, but we fear that they will be all but extinct by the time we get back to normality – and that could well be the case all around the world.
Local to Nintendo Life’s UK headquarters is Leicester-based Retro Computer Museum, a charity which has a permanent venue dedicated to allowing gamers to experience all manner of retro computers and video game consoles. While it’s described as a museum, the machines on display are all hooked up and ready to play – making it a truly unique venue. Over the years we’ve gotten quite close with the people behind this noble venture and paid our first visit to one of the RCM’s events way back in 2010.
We recently reached out to RCM Chairman Andy Spencer to see how they were getting on at the moment.
Nintendo Life: Firstly, bring us up to speed, how have things been going prior to the pandemic?
Andy Spencer: The Retro Computer Museum was set up twelve years ago by myself and my wife Linda. The idea behind the museum was to share my humble collection with other like-minded people. Over the past twelve years, though, this has changed to something much bigger than even I envisaged. We moved around for a few years until we found our home in Leicester.
Since moving to Leicester, our footfall has risen significantly and our visitors range from toddlers to grandparents! We normally open on Saturdays (from 10 am until 4.00 pm) and Sundays (from 11 am until 5.30 pm) to the public and also during the week we did some evenings (for Scout visits, Corporate visits and other private events). We are very much a hands-on, ‘help yourself’ sort of place and often get complimented on this.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your ability to operate and/or fundraise?
As our income is solely from visitors paying a very reasonable entrance fee we are literally making no money whatsoever. We can’t open our doors so we can’t operate. We work literally on a shoestring budget anyway – but obviously our rent costs are beyond our control. We do have some items for sale on eBay and will be adding more when we can.
How has the pandemic affected the morale of your team?
Obviously this pandemic has affected everybody all around the world. Our team is no exception – however, we do have a meet up (via Skype) on most Wednesday evenings. We try to keep in contact that way or via Facebook, WhatsApp or even our own forums. We have tried to keep the team spirit up and I think we are succeeding so far.
As of now, are you confident you’ll be able to continue after the restrictions are lifted?
At the present time, thanks to many many wonderful people donating to our Just Giving / Facebook / Virgin money pages we won’t be closing our doors anytime soon. However, having said that, nobody really knows how long this could or will last. I am (fairly) confident that with the team and our wonderful supporters we will be around long after this pandemic has gone.
How can people support you during this time?
You can support our little place financially (by the way of a donation) by going to our Just Giving page or our Virgin Money Giving page or indeed by contacting us directly to either purchase tickets for when this is over or to just say hello. You can also help yourself to stay at home and stay safe (where possible).
We’d like to thank Andy for his time. As personal supporters of his charity, we wish them all the best for the future and we hope to visit again soon.
The perilous situation that RCM has found themselves in means that they won’t be the only ones either. Whilst we understand this won’t be at the top of the agenda for many, we would like to encourage you all to seek out and consider supporting any local projects similar that may need your support during this time – otherwise, they may not be there for much longer.
Are you aware of any closures of local game shops, arcades or museums near you? Let us know in the comments below.