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Apr 12 2012

Smithsonian exhibit: The Art of Video Games

The Smithsonian is going to have an exhibit on a subject I expect you will understand to be near and dear to me: video games as an art form.



I agree completely that video games are just like any other expression of the human experience. They have an extra layer though — they involve, to varying degrees, the interactivity of the player.

Yes, some video games are simple duplications of things like sports or city-building, but many are fully realized interactive worlds. There are some whose interactivity is limited artificially despite the pretensions that you are in a world where your choices have real consequences, in such a way that you can tell you’re really in a world-on-rails, e.g. the Fable games, or to a lesser extent the inFamous games. Even games that ostensibly give you full control of the world, sandbox games where you are given a full city or province to wreak havoc or right wrongs like Skyrim, you are still constrained by the plot elements provided by the designers — the branching, Choose Your Own Adventure style tree of plot format with the option of including a pendulum-like karma system.

But despite those constraints, I defy you to find me a single book, painting or movie that approaches this ability to create vivid landscapes that change as you command them to do so.

You should probably also see the other videos on the exhibit over at the American Art Museum channel.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Tenebras

    My friend and I are going to go see that exhibit in July… the day after going to the Wolf Trap theater just outside DC in Fairfax, VA to see The Legend of Zelda concert they’re doing. A whole weekend of videogamey awesomesauce. 8D

  2. 2
    Jason Thibeault

    JEALOUSY.

  3. 3
    annesauer

    The exhibit is up, and I saw it when we were in DC for the Reason Rally. My husband is a video game designer and we both voted on which games to include in the exhibit, so we were excited about it.

    I think the representation of games was very good, and it looked like there was some interesting information, but unfortunately I don’t think the exhibit itself was design especially well. There were a lot of videos to watch and long bits of audio to listen to which meant that a lot of people were stopped here and there watching or listening. God exhibits should keep visitors flowing, but this created a lot of bottle necks and meant a huge time commitment to actually access all of the information (and we didn’t bother). So, noble idea but the execution could have been better

    Best part: Little kids getting to play original Mario with an original controller. We could see how excited their parents were about them playing this game the parents had played when they were kids

  4. 4
    karmakin

    I thought it was more going to be the art of video games, and not so much video games as art, to be honest. Both are interesting subjects for a display I think.

  5. 5
    Aliasalpha

    Is Planescape Torment in the exhibit? If not, its woefully incomplete, its missing a masterpiece of storytelling.

  6. 6
    VeritasKnight

    Planescape Torment…what an incredible game.

    But the art isn’t just visual, either. The music of some video games is incredible. The Zelda series, Chrono Trigger, some of the Final Fantasy entries. Oh yes. Video games can truly be an art.

  7. 7
    Aliasalpha

    The music of some video games is incredible

    The music of Planescape Torment springs immediately to mind. Hell half the reason I bought the GOG version despite having the game on CD is because it came with the amazing soundtrack.

    Well 97% amazing, its all amazing apart from the civic festhall theme, it made sense in the context of the game but in the soundtrack its like being punched in the face with a harpsichord.

  8. 8
    Mclean

    Listening to this when I work:

    http://ocremix.org/

    Lots of good stuff on the site coming from a community that not only remixes video game music, but also judges it and works together to create albums and works of high quality.

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