Got a little Nintendo wiz in the house, or maybe you think no one can top your score on PAC-MAN? Put it to the test at OMSI’s action-packed new exhibit that will have the whole family shouting, “Game On!” Read on to see what we discovered when we checked it out for ourselves.

OMSI GameMasters1photo: Mark Ashkanasy, 2012

Go Retro With Arcade Heroes 
Showcasing the game design and art concepts of over 30 designers, Game Masters brings the evolution of video games to life with over 125 playable games for families to try. Enter the exhibit on OMSI’s ground level, and you’ll find yourself in the first section, Arcade Heroes. Let the wave of nostalgia wash over you in the flashy hallway lined with retro arcade games from the 70s and 80s. (Anyone up for Asteroids?) Introduce your kids to PAC-MAN, play a few rounds of Donkey Kong and remember why you originally fell in love with Space Invaders.

OMSI GameMasters2photo: Mark Ashkanasy, 2012

Play Favorites with Game Changers
From Arcade Heroes, make your way through the first floor to the larger Game Changers area, where youngsters will recognize some of their favorite characters like Mario & Luigi and Sonic the Hedgehog. This large area has plenty of options—from a table of handheld devices just for little fingers to a wall of big screens with multiple remotes for team play. This popular area can get very crowded, so eager gamers may have to wait before they get their hands on the remote for a round of LEGO Harry Potter or Zelda. (A 15-minute player limit per game helps to keep things moving along.)

Insider tip: Strollers are welcome inside the exhibit, but may be trickier to maneuver during popular weekend times.

Don’t Miss
While you wait to play the next game, be sure and check out the walls lined with the initial art concepts for the games, or grab a headset from the multiple stations throughout the exhibit and listen in on exclusive interviews with the game designers. Your little sidekicks can strut their stuff in one of several soundproof booths to play Rock Band, or practice an epic duet on the karaoke-inspired game SingStar. Got a pint-sized performer in the family? They’ll love Dance Central, taking up one wall and hard to miss if you follow the music and cheering bystanders. Using Kinect technology to control the game, your little showstopper can show off their freshest dance moves to their favorite songs. There’s a row of benches in the Dance Central area, so it’s also a great spot for moms and dads to take a quick rest and enjoy the show.

Alert: Role Playing Battle Themes
Another area of Game Changers displays art, images and video for various online role playing games. In this area and some others throughout the exhibit, games with more mature and battle-oriented themes are displayed. Although games with mature content are marked, parents should use their discretion throughout the exhibit, and decide which games are a good fit for their youngsters to play.

GameMastersphoto: Mark Ashkanasy, 2012

Catch Your Breath with Board Games
The first floor of Game Masters mimics a true arcade atmosphere, with low lighting and plenty of noisy excitement, so smaller gamers (and parents!) may need a break for some quieter time. When it’s time to slow the pace, level up to the Indies section on the second floor, with more lighting, a spacious and airy feel and plenty of seating for optimal game viewing.

Insider tip: The hallway near the staircase has less noise and lots of bench seating. Perfect for moms who need to make a nursing stop, or for toddlers who might want a break from the gaming festivities.

Once upstairs, take a pause from the electronics and enjoy several tables of board games, sponsored by Guardian Games. Or, explore Indies, and try your hand at fun games like Minecraft, Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds. Photography is not permitted in any areas of the Game Masters exhibit, so you can lighten that diaper bag by leaving the camera at home this time.

Grab a Snack
When it’s GAME OVER for your crew, head downstairs and pop right into Theory, OMSI’s in-house restaurant that serves roasted turkey wraps, fresh salads and grilled cheeses that will please your hungry family. All of that gaming is sure to have you working up an appetite. It’s the perfect ending to an afternoon where everyone wins.

When: Now through May 8
Tues.–Sun. 9:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m., Closed Mon.
Where: 1945 SE Water Ave.
503-797-4000
Cost: $16.50/adults; $12.75 youth 3 & up and seniors; Free/OMSI members & under 2
Online: omsi.edu/gamemasters

Have you checked out Game Masters? Which game was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

—Anna Doogan