Fly Spaceships, Battle Aliens and Drive a ‘Crazy Taxi’ At This Oakland Museum

You could say Auckland’s Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment was born out of a cabbage patch.

About 15 years ago, the museum’s founder, video game enthusiast and tech journalist Alex Handy stumbled upon a truly rare find — an unpublished version — at the Ranney College flea market in Oakland The Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventures in the Park for the Atari 2600 console.

Many people may overlook this obscure piece of video game history. Instead, Handy built an entire museum around it.

Fifteen years later, Handy and the rest of “the MADE” team are The Bay Area’s only all-in-one video game museum.

MADE showcases consoles and games from every video game era. | Video by Jesse Rogala

Today, MADE is one of the few places in the world where people can play games like Cabbage Patch Kids on platforms like the Atari 2600. While other conservationists managed to keep systems like the 2600 (first released in 1977) working for order, they were often hidden behind protective glass panels.

But at MADE, these early vestiges of the video game industry — as well as more modern titles like Super Smash Bros., Crazy Taxi, The Legend of Zelda, and Halo — continue to serve their original purpose.Any visitor to the Old Oakland Museum can play with and learn from these increasingly rare pieces of hardware – an insight into the early days of the present multi-billion dollar industry and glimpse Silicon Valley’s Origins.

“We don’t think it’s enough to just preserve artefacts. We believe these artefacts should be used for something, which is to inspire the next generation,” said Shem Nguyen, executive director of MADE. “We can’t do that if they’re sitting behind glass.”

Visitors to MADE can play with a variety of controllers for different consoles and platforms. | Video by Jesse Rogala

Players can jam on the drums of an early 2000s rock band, or go back in time to play 1970s Atari’s Pong Competitor Version. Preserving these works of digital entertainment for future generations is part of the museum’s mission.In this spirit, the museum also offers free course Teach students computer programming and game design skills.

While MADE, which is largely run by volunteers, has survived for years on a meager budget and donations from supporters, once Covid hit in 2020, the museum’s game was all but over. However, MADE has survived the pandemic and continues its mission to make video games in the state of play.

from the cabbage field

After stumbling across the Cabbage Patch Kids game collection, Handy wanted to donate the items to an institution that would preserve this little-known piece of digital entertainment.

But the Strong National Game Museum in Rochester, New York, is too far away, and Stanford’s a large number of interactive software Live in an academic ivory tower.

So Handy decided to start his own non-profit museum to save video games like Atari’s unreleased Cabbage Kids from collecting dust in forgotten boxes or being thrown in the dump.

MADE Executive Director Shem Nguyen and former Executive Director Alex Handy browse the museum’s collection. | Jesse Rogara/Standard

“The history of the industry is in people’s garages. It’s not in glass skyscrapers,” Handy said. “So initially we saw ourselves almost as a grease trap for the industry, just trying to save this stuff and stop it from being destroyed.”

But there’s a debate going on in the gaming world. Should these historic games continue, or should they be preserved intact? Handy knows where he stands.

“If you don’t let people play these things, it’s not a video game museum,” he said. “It’s an art museum with lights out.”

Preservationists had a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept of an all-in-one video game museum, but Kickstarter succeeded — with $20,000 in seed money raised from the crowdfunding platform, Handy leased MADE’s first ever 16th and Jefferson street in Oakland. Home built in 2011.

With the help of volunteers, the museum has also begun offering classes on everything from computer programming and project management to character drawing and game design. These courses form an integral part of MADE’s mission to make educational and career opportunities and resources in Silicon Valley accessible to young people in the surrounding community.

MADE Executive Director Shem Nguyen leads a class of students at the museum. | Made courtesy of

“The most important thing we do is teach kids how to make games, because if you ask kids if they want to make games, the answer is always yes,” Handy said. “If you teach a kid how to code, they learn math by accident.”

Support from industry giants like SimCity creator Will Wright, Dolby and Google Help keep the museum running over the years. After the ceiling caved in at 16th and Jefferson Streets, with the help of another Kickstarter campaign, MADE moved to Oakland’s Sawmill building on Broadway in 2015 and stayed there until Covid hit, which led to the museum’s emergence turning point.

Manufacturing on the move

“We were self-funding almost 100 percent on enrollment and membership. That’s when the pandemic hit,” recalls Nguyen, a museum lecturer and volunteer at the time.

The building was about to be sold at the time and couldn’t come to an agreement with the landlord on the rent, essentially forcing MADE to vacate its space as the world went into lockdown. Over the course of a month or so, dozens of volunteers squeezed MADE’s collection of 13,000 unique items into a leaky Oakland warehouse that was regularly flooded and on the verge of demolition. Larger items were shipped to caretakers outside Sacramento.

MADE’s original location is in Auckland’s Sawmill Building. | Made courtesy of

“It was very intense,” Nguyen recalls. “But that’s the thing that’s so community-oriented. It’s like our superpower. We’re finally able to draw resources from a lot of different areas.”

Handy believes MADE will return post-Covid as a brick-and-mortar store, but as a major nonprofit leader, it’s exhausted. Nguyen is less certain about the future of the museum. Ultimately, Handy decided to pass the torch to Nguyen, who will take over as director in October 2021. Pandemics, flooding warehouses, and the prospect of collections potentially being locked in inaccessible archives put the importance of preserving collections into Nguyen’s vision.

“In those moments, you realize, ‘Wow, no one is going to do this unless someone comes forward,'” he said.


After months of uncertainty, MADE has reopened at its current location at 921 Washington Street. June 2022 and has resumed its classes.

The museum is doubling down on not only preserving the history of video games, but continuing to make them playable for future digital creators. During the pandemic, MADE began bringing its consoles to community events, and currently, the museum is working with local high school students to create a rotating exhibit system and areas on site.

Ultimately, Nguyen hopes that MADE will continue to strike a balance between video game preservation and playing for future generations through the power of technology.

“The dream of MADE is to have a way to do both,” Nguyen said. “Through technology, you can actually both protect and educate.”

The team behind MADE sand outside the museum on Wednesday, March 15, 2023.Jesse Rogala’s video

Christina Campodonico can reach [email protected]

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