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“The Art of Video Games” Exhibition Pieces Revealed!

Kyle Black 05/06/2011 Reviews

For those of you who don’t already know, The Smithsonian American Art Museum will host an exhibit next year that highlights the history of innovation and evolution in video games. Titled “The Art of Video Games”, the exhibition is tentatively scheduled to begin its run on March 16, 2012, with a targeted end date of September 30, 2012. The exhibition will focus on pieces from all eras of gaming, from the early days of Atari, ColecoVision, and all the other pioneer systems, to the most current generation of video games. From the exhibition’s website: “The Art of Video Games exhibition will explore the 40‐year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus onstriking visual effects, the creative use of new technologies, and the most influential artists and designers.”

While the exhibit, ostensibly the first of its kind, is attracting much media attention, what’s garnered even more discussion is the unusual method by which exhibition pieces were selected. From February 14th through April 17th, those interested in the exhibit were able to cast their votes to let The Smithsonian staff know which games were worthy of inclusion in the exhibit. Gamers had to select representative games for twenty different gaming systems across five different generations of gaming in a multitude of different genres. Yesterday, via a live webcast, The Smithsonian officially announced which pieces had been chosen for exhibition when “The Art of Video Games” goes live next year.

The list is way too long to mention in full here, but I’d like to take a look at some of the surprising and not-so-surprising inclusions.

Among the worthy pieces being shown:

- Pitfall, 1982, Atari

- Super Mario World, 1991, Super Nintendo Entertainment System

- Shenmue, 2000, Dreamcast

- Starcraft, 1998, DOS/Windows

- Bioshock, 2007, XBOX 360 (2009, PS3)

- Portal, 2007, Modern Windows

I was also surprised by a few of the games that were included in the final list, such as:

- Minecraft, 2010, Modern Windows

- Brütal Legend, 2009, XBOX 360/PS3

While I’m sure the exhibit will attract much love and attention from gamers, I’m curious to see how non-gamers treat the exhibit. Not many people think of gaming as an art form, which, as many of the games on the list arguably show, is just patently untrue. I’m also curious to see how The Smithsonian structures the exhibit. Will we move through each generation in a logical format to show the evolution of gaming across the different generations or will games of similar genres be grouped together to show how that particular genre evolved? Will attendees be able to play the games or will this be a non-interactive exhibit, with game footage being assembled into videos? And just how much attention will each game receive? When we voted on the games, they were grouped by genre within a generation. Some games have contributed to the evolution of video games in vastly different ways: musically, visually, stylistically, etc.

No matter what The Smithsonian decides to do, I will certainly be checking out this exhibit some time next year. And don’t fret if you’re nowhere near Washington D.C. – The Smithsonian has announced that the exhibit will be available for touring once it finishes its run at The American Art Museum in September 2012. If you’re at all interested in tracking the progress of the exhibition, you can sign up for an e-mail list or follow the team on twitter.

Also, check out the list of exhibition pieces and let us know in the comments:

- Are there any games on the list that are unworthy of exhibition?

- Are there any egregious snubs?

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  1. Jordamus Prime 05/06/2011 at 9:28 am

    Kind of excited 'Brutal Legend' made it into this exhibit; it's one of my favorite games from the past decade or so. It was incredibly original and had alot going for it- if it wasn't so damn short it would've bene a masterpiece. It likely made the cut due to the visuals in the game; which were amazing. I loved the artstyle they went with!

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