The Strong National Museum of Play has announced plans to create a 20-foot-tall Donkey Kong arcade cabinet. Despite being four times larger than the 1981 original, it will be fully playable and has been designed with advice from Nintendo of America, after which it was presented to the company for approval. The wall-sized game will be built over the coming months and released to the museum’s center for the history of electronic games in Rochester, New York in June.
A new kit has been designed by engineers at The Strong Museum to allow games to be run on old hardware. The museum is using an actual motherboard from the original Donkey Kong, which is being adapted for a Home Arcade System Supergun JAMMA interface. A backup emulator motherboard also helps power the system as it upscales the RGB output to a large 1.56 mm pixel pitch LED display. The giant joystick and buttons will be replaced with normal-size controls, but the original motherboard remains unmodified for the authentic sound, video, and gameplay experience.
It is challenging to upscale old games on modern hardware, and in the emulator community, “significant properties” represent all the game’s aspects that make it feel like the original, such as the way colored pixels appear on the screen to the tightness of the controls. The museum team has taken players’ perspective into account as the original Donkey Kong arcade cabinets’ players were often at a downward angle to the screen, and unless as big as Donkey Kong himself, the museum expects players to be looking up at the giant screen.
The Kong-sized cabinet will be part of a $65 million exhibit for the museum’s expanded ESL Digital Worlds gallery, intending to showcase the broader history of pop culture in play. The objective of the gargantuan game is to express the legacy of gaming to visitors and the broader public. The overall experience of playing the game is important for the engineers as it represents the first time gamers could control Nintendo’s poster boy Mario in the US market, which helped Nintendo with the North American launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, cementing Shigeru Miyamoto as a significant figure in gaming history.