The Art of Video Games Exhibit

By Jonathan Barnes, 4 years ago
Last May, we brought you the voting results for games to be included in the Smithsonian's "The Art of Video Games" exhibit. The exhibit opened in March and shows off games from every era of home consoles. This week, I got a chance to tour the exhibit and bring you a quick glimpse.

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The first thing to know about the exhibit is that it starts with the visual artists, the men and women who come up with the initial concepts that turn into our favorite characters. With the exhibit debuting in Washington, D.C., one of the prominent pieces came from Bethesda's Adam Adamowicz, who tragically passed away this past February.

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One of the coolest features of the initial room was the breadth of concept art featured, as well as a cool, pop-culture item that will surely interest a large portion of gamers.

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Another interesting display showed the faces of gamers as they played and reflected upon the wide range of emotions that games can elicit.

The next room in the exhibition gave guests the chance to play five games selected to be a part of the "playable" portion of the exhibition: http://www.trueachievements.com/PACMAN-xbox-360.htm, Super Mario Bros., The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower.

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It was refreshing and inspiring to see people of all generations taking these games for a spin. Whether it was grandparents showing off Pac-Man to their grandkids, or a child showing off Flower to a parent, the room had a real sense of community as generations came together to bond over shared past times and hobbies.

The real "meat" of the exhibit occurs in the final room, however. Contained within small kiosks are every home system released to American markets. Each kiosk also has a video describing four different games that made artistic impacts on the system and the industry as a whole.

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The truly fascinating aspect of this room is seeing the humble beginnings of games (with consoles like the Atari VCS and ColecoVision) and how the contributions of those early pioneers set the stage for the master opuses that games have become in this generation.

Each game video is a few minutes long and talks about the artistic merits of the game and speaks to some of the creatives involved. Portions from the following video were used to describe one of my personal favorites, http://www.trueachievements.com/BioShock-xbox-360.htm:



While the debate on whether games are art rages on, this exhibit puts the issue front and center by showing off some of what the best the industry has to offer and the growth of the medium.

The Art of Video Games exhibit will be on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through September 30th, 2012. The exhibit will then tour through 2016. Be sure to check the tour schedule to see if/when the exhibit makes a stop close to you.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.