Pitch to Pixel at the National Football Museum: From football stadium to home console

Joe Daly

Head to Pitch to Pixel for an interactive tour through football gaming history – and a leg that simulates a professional tackle.

Red or Blue? FIFA or Pro Evo? Footie Manager or original Champ Man?* The great questions of the modern age have made casualties of relationships, friends, game pads and rationality. The National Football Museum’s latest exhibition, Pitch to Pixel celebrates these divisions and the power (and financial heft) of the relationship between the gaming industry and football.

Spread over Level 3 of the museum is an interactive history of football gaming, with some of the most iconic games of all time available to play for free. The accompanying text and imagery goes some way to showing just how quickly the industry has evolved. Most noticeable of the incredible developments (not least because of the massive EA SPORTS logos plastered everywhere) is FIFA 16 and the film-like realism of the faces and stadiums, as well as the huge number of different options for how to play.

An interactive history of football gaming, with iconic games available to play for free

Pitch to Pixel’s journey highlights the technological developments in football gaming, the growth of the industry, and what some would term the corporatisation of the game. The licensed players, the Dreamcast sponsorship of Arsenal, the real advertising hoardings; the development within football itself has been mirrored by the games about it. It’s a little jarring, too, to see huge logos from the biggest sports games companies in the world spreading across a museum.

You could aim to try and work your way through the years and watch things progress like that Evolution of Dance video but, personally, I can’t help being drawn to Championship Manager 2, the gold standard of football management simulations. Nostalgia kicks in, and before long I’m not walking through the history of football computer games, I’m living my history of football computer games.

A nod to Cherno Samba, and his poignant plea to be remembered as an okay real-life footballer rather than just a Championship Manager superstar, however, and I close the game (if they’d been there, my parents would have been in shock). Art created around football is interspersed with the games themselves; there’s a prosthetic leg that allows you experience the real power of a professional tackle (though not actually working here) and a table football modified with light and sound.

The cliché that an exhibition offers something for all ages is rarely true, but in Pitch to Pixel you can regress into childhood playing the unsurpassable Sensible Soccer on one side of the room, whilst younger gamers play FIFA 16, setting up their own nostalgia for their favourite game.

*Oh, and – the answers are Blue , Pro Evo, original Champ Man. These are answers. Not opinions.

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