The cool cats at A Dangerous Business visited a seemingly forgotten Russian arcade museum in Moscow featuring some of the greatest old video games you could ever imagine coming out of a totalitarian worker’s state circa 1983. For example we’re introduced to a game…
…called “Репка Силомер” (Repka Silomer) or “Turnip Strength Tester.” Later that night, we showed the photos to our homestay host, hoping for some sort of explanation. She had never played the game but told us that the concept was based on an old Russian children’s story.
The tale is called “The Giant Turnip” and is about a family who planted a turnip that grew so large that they couldn’t get it out of the ground. The Old Man tries pulling on it, but it won’t budge. The Old Woman grabs on to him, but still no luck. Then the Granddaughter grabs hold, the dog, the cat and finally, with the help of the mouse, they’re able to pull it out.
Interestingly, in my own travels in Central Europe during the 1980s I remember finding lots of Western games including Track and Field in an East German railway station and, if I recall, Galaxian in a ratty old arcade in Warsaw. These seem to be the produce some sort of odd, Darwinian off-shoot of the Russian arcade game industry, destined to be scrap until the boys and girls who once loved them grew up, cleaned them, and placed them in a small but heartwarming shrine.
These are evocative of the old Soviet Game & Watch clones that people still fetishize as the apex of handheld gaming: slightly odd, slightly dated, but wildly cool.