Thirty to 40 years ago, when arcade and console games were primitive and parents condemned them as a new threat to their children’s schooling, it was probably hard to imagine one of America’s leading museums embracing video games as an artform.
Fast forward to 2012, and many parents are still trying to limit their kids’ gaming hours. But video games themselves are increasingly ambitious, interactive and artistically complex — an evolution celebrated in a new show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The exhibition, “The Art of Video Games,” explores 40 years of video games as cultural artifacts. It features interactive games people can actually play, pieces of gaming memorabilia and visual displays that highlight the artistic work done by developers.
Guest curator Chris Melissinos was the driving force behind the vision of "The Art of Video Games" exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington. "This is not designed to be an exhaustive compendium of the history of games," he said. "It is an art exhibition."
And as the first such exhibition to appear in a major museum, it’s been a huge hit. Museum officials said their opening last month drew nearly 23,000 people, putting it in the top five highest visitation days ever. Chris Melissinos, guest curator of the exhibition, believes the timing is right because the current generation of museum-goers have grown up with video games.
“The exhibit will highlight the games they grew up with, and in a way, tell the story of their lives,” he said. “People will see a game or artwork and remember what they were doing when that game was in their life.”
The “Art of Video Games” exhibition runs through September 30
Twenty video game consoles from the past 40 years are on display in the exhibit. Each console features four games for that device that fans selected as being representatives for that stage in video game evolution.
Opening weekend at the Smithsonian American Art Museum drew nearly 23,000 visitors, ranking it in the top five highest visitation day for the museum
"The Art of Video Games" features some of the most influential artists and designers during five eras of game technology, from early pioneers to contemporary designers. It is one of the first exhibits ever to look at the evolution of video games as an artistic medium.
Kids line up to play a video game that was created before they were born. "Pac-Man" is one of five playable games in the exhibit -- "Super Mario Brothers," "Myst," "Flower" and "The Secret of Monkey Island" are the othersConcept art from "Fallout 3" shows visitors the vision of the artists as the games were being developed. Lots of ideas about creatures and settings -- in this case, a post-apocalyptic Washington -- are tossed around before a final version is placed in the game.Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari and inventor of Pong, speaks to the opening weekend crowd. Bushnell talked about the inspiration for the game and the future of the video game experience
- Pac-Man himself made an appearance during opening weekend. He looks pretty good for 32 years old