|Oh Minecraft. I'll never get that 300 hours back via Art of Video Games|
There is a lot of self-hate within the video game community. Every time something like this comes up, we cling to it, almost in a hope that finally, just maybe, we can be considered normal. That our passion is a legitimate, verifiable 'thing'.
|Original Video Game Art on Display. Sweet.|
The exhibit itself was amazingly presented. First off, the feeling for it was, understandably, very different from most of the other exhibits you're going to find at any Smithsonian museum. I enjoyed that some of the games were playable, allowing the attendees to experience the games as complete pieces rather than simply still frames or a looping video.
Video games are an enticing medium mainly due to it being a co-operative experience. I don't mean necessarily you and your buddy co-oping through Halo 2 on Legendary, I mean the space created when the developer and the player come together to make the final product. That's why video games end up so engrossing compared to other media. No matter how heavy handed the plot, you're part of the game. It's your story too.
|I do really love the lighting used, good nerd cave feel.|
That's where The Art of Video Games fell shortest. Having the one room with it's few games available to be played barely brushed upon the sense of shared experience. Granted, I'm not sure what they could have done to improve that. You can't have a museum audience come through and play the entirety of Baldur's Gate after all. There's not enough time or space, plus I think that's going in the wrong direction. You didn't come to the museum to sit down for an hour or two of video gaming.
What did you come here for? If you're at all like me, you're interested in checking this out just to see what they did with the thing. To see what the craze is about. Maybe to get some better understanding of the though / creative process that goes into creating a video game. While this exhibit is full of nostalgia and a brief history of the progression of graphics and style in video games, I never got a full sense of why things developed the way they did. One of my biggest complaints is that I don't understand how the exhibit shows why video games are art. I feel there was way too much "here's a video game" and not enough of inspection of the medium.
|Not in this photo, but still, PC games had two kiosks. TWO! Come on!|
Don't get me wrong here. I'm not say you shouldn't go to see the Art of Video Games. I believe it's imperative that you see the exhibit while it's on display. And the reason for that is very simple: the Art of Video Games draws in the right kind of geek. The main people that will be interested in seeing what is on display, arguing about it, remarking, and griping will be those of us who are passionate about video games. I can't tell you how many amazing conversations were spawned by standing around a section of this exhibit and making a random remark. People fully engaged with each other without trying. There is a sense of community that goes with this.
I know that Chris Melissinos and the staff at the Smithsonian American Art Museum poured their hearts out for this. The biggest triumph, where they truly earn a gold medal and half a dozen internets, is that they created something that people can go to and feel like they are a part of it. Not by playing the video games on display, viewing the art, or looking at the videos of games from yesteryear, but by striking up a conversation with that nerd next to you wearing the 1-UP t-shirt who's arguing with the guy dressed as Link about why ET wasn't chosen.
Community. Something that the DC Geek scene really needs more of a sense of. If I could wish for one improvement to this exhibit. It would be for a bar/coffee shop to be attached to it.
So, we've got this milestone. We're in a legit museum. This huge part of our lives that we love, debate over, fight for, create in, and lose vast quantities of time to - has gained that much more mainstream recognition. We really didn't need verification like this to prove that video games aren't just for kids or a passing fancy. It's freakin' awesome we have it though.
The Art of Video Games is on display until Sept 30, 2012. Go check it out and form your own opinion. We'd love to hear what you have to say.
Check out the the DC Geeks Flickr for The Art of Video Games for more images.