FRISCO -- The dreaded "GAME OVER" message flashed, and Nicholas Schell punched in his initials alongside his high score of 105,990.
"It's my misspent youth," he said after deftly reaching Round 13 of Mappy, a 1980s arcade game featuring a police mouse trying to retrieve stolen goods from a mansion of cats.
Leaving his mark on the leader boards of DigDug, Joust and Ms. Pac-Man, Schell made the rounds at the Pixel Dreams arcade inside the new National Videogame Museum in Frisco.
About 250 people turned out for Saturday's invitation-only soft opening. The museum officially opens its doors to the public on April 2.
"This is good clean fun," said Schell, who lives in University Park and enjoys restoring vintage pinball machines. "It encapsulates everything about my youth."
Years in the making, the museum features the best of the best from the private collections of its founders, Joe Santulli, Sean Kelly and John Hardie, along with some items on loan from friends in the industry.
The three have known each other since the early 1990s. They joined forces to offer traveling exhibits at gaming conventions for years. In 2009 they formed a nonprofit with the idea of opening a permanent museum someday. That some day is finally here.
Kelly said the hardest part was settling on what to put in the museum. So much more is still in storage. But he's pleased with the end result.
"There's nothing I would do over or better," he said. "This is the cream of the crop."
The museum offers a mix of history, storytelling and interactive play. Step up and play Pong, one of the earliest games, on the 15-foot screen mounted on the wall.
Jennifer Barnes of Carrollton looked over the dozens of gaming consoles, starting with the Odyssey 1 in 1972 and ending with the PlayStation 3 in 2006.
"They have things I didn't even know existed," she said, scrolling through the details on the nearby monitor and finding the Atari 5200 that she used to play. Its retail price when it came out? $329.95. "I can't believe my parents paid for that," she said.
Rodney Black of McKinney found himself drawn to Castlevania on the Nintendo Entertainment System he played growing up.
"It's like riding a bike," he said, controller in hand, moving his character through Dracula's domain. "It comes back to you."
Toward the back of the museum is a room dedicated to handheld games. That's where Leslie Zvitt and her husband, Jeremy, stopped to play. She remembers her dad giving her the same Ms. Pac-Man handheld one day after school to distract her from a trip to the dentist.
"This game was so cutting-edge," she said. "But you can't even tell what these graphics are supposed to represent."
Thirteen-year-old Adrian Rivera of Frisco was challenging his friends to a game of Duck Hunt in the 1980s-themed bedroom with shag carpet, Pac-Man bedsheets and a movie poster from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Next door is the 1970s-style living room complete with a rotary phone and wood paneling on the walls.
"Everything from old to new is in here," he said. "It's amazing."
One exhibit features gaming music, from the jazzy sounds of Donkey Kong 64 to the electronic bop in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to the rock beat in Borderlands 2.
"It's going to introduce Frisco to a whole different group of people," said Mike Gfeller, president of the Frisco Community Development Corp., which helped fund the museum that's housed inside the Frisco Discovery Center. "Any town would love to have something like this, I would think. We're lucky enough to have it."
His son, 14-year-old Gunnar, is partial to Super Mario Sunshine but got a kick out of all the old-fashioned games.
"They're still just as good as what we have," he said. "Just different."
Randy Pitchford, CEO and president of Frisco-based Gearbox Software and one of the early champions of the museum, stopped by for Saturday's screening.
"I feel like this is where I grew up," he said. "Every system I ever played with, every computer I ever programmed on, it's all here."
He pointed out some of the features in the museum's replica of his office. Crowded along the back shelf are the games he's had a hand in producing, from Duke Nukem to the Samba de Amigo to the Brothers in Arms series.
"There's a lot of memories in there," he said.
Weston Robinson from Arlington said he loved trying out the consoles he never got to play growing up. He was testing out the display that lets visitors send text and photos between two terminals at different dial-up speeds.
"I don't want to leave," he said.
Hardie said he hopes that kids today will get a kick out of the blocky pixels from the past and get a taste for the games their parents grew up on.
People could breeze through the 20 different exhibits in 30 minutes or so, he said. But if they take time to look through all the memorabilia in display cases, try out games on all the different systems and read about the history of gaming posted in the exhibits, they could find themselves at the museum for hours.
Plus, visitors are challenged to find the museum's "Easter eggs," the hidden messages or features in video games, that have been placed throughout the 10,000-square-foot space.
"You're going to get out of it what you put into it," Hardie said.
IF YOU GO
What: The National Videogame Museum
Where: 8004 N. Dallas Parkway in Frisco
When: Opens from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on April 2-3
Cost: $12 for ages 11 and up, $10 for children 10 and under, as well as service members, educators and seniors.
Visit the museum's website for more information.