Step inside the surreal world of Novelty Automation.
Behind a Bloomsbury shopfront and just around the corner from the British Museum lies an arcade with a difference. You won’t find Time Crisis or even pinball here; instead, it’s a shrine of subversive British humour, offering hilarious games on such topics as CAPITALISM. DIVORCE. And VEGETARIANISM. [Featured photo: Georgia Munster.]
Created by artist and inventor Tim Hunkin over the past thirty years, each arcade game lurking within has a surreal or satirical bent. Here, you can pilot a drone in a quest to capture an incriminating paparazzi shot; receive a patdown from the AUTOFRISK; or have your personal possessions analysed for artistic value.
Tim first started creating his weird and wonderful contraptions in the 1980s, making them out of industrial surplus motors and various other parts. These vintage pieces now live alongside his later, computer-controlled work, although they’re all very much full of handmade charm.
Particularly nailbiting is the Money Laundering game, where your magnetic crane must successfully lift real cash past the eyes of financial regulators into your City penthouse. The opportunity to become a billionaire awaits!
Like any arcade, it costs a little bit to play each game, although most can be enjoyed by two people at once, with one of you at the controls each time. Two friends will probably get through £10 to £15 during a visit, and it probably takes an hour to play LITERALLY everything. All told, it’s one of the strangest but loveliest attractions London has to offer, and if it ever gets turned into luxury flats I will RIOT.
Note: Novelty Automation is usually closed Sunday and Monday, but it will be open every day during the May bank holiday!
Location: 1 Princeton Street, WC1R 4AX. Nearest station is Holborn. See it on Google Maps.
Opening hours: Wed-Sat, 11pm – 6pm; stays open until 8pm on Thursdays.
Price: admission is free, while playing all the games will cost you about £15 (though many can be enjoyed in pairs or small groups.)
More information: from their website.
Make a day of it: the British Museum is a very short walk away; stop by The Coral Room for drinks or Dalloway Terrace for classy all-day dining.
Also published on Medium.