So long story short, I was in Washington, D.C. yesterday with some time to kill and went to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery. There they had a giant exhibit entitled The Art of Video Games.
This exhibit tried to demonstrate that video games are truly an art form that makes people think and that they can interact with. In the modern art world, interaction and thinking is kind of the entire point of art. Anyway, the exhibit came across as more of a history of video games and their aesthetics. They also had a lot of things you could play, like the original Super Mario and the original Pac Man on giant screens.
I’ll start off with what I didn’t like: maybe it was because I was possibly there at a high museum traffic hour (6pm), but I was being swarmed by small children. Oh, my goodness. Let me tell you it is not easy to play the original Super Mario on a giant screen surrounded by 15–20 ten year olds who feel like judging your every jump. And they were there just to play the games. I didn’t see any of them wandering in the landscape section (I have a thing for paintings from the Hudson River School). And on top of that, all the parents supervising said unappreciative kids thought the exhibit was just an excuse to entertain the kids.
And the thing that I liked about the exhibit was it wasn’t just some throw away thing to entertain the kids. They had some seriously cool things in there besides every single old system in existence. What really stood out to me was a video game called Flower (which I had never heard of before) for PS3 that was just so darn pretty. The visuals were so stunning I could have watched the trailer for the game all day. But the exhibit examined how graphics, artistic style, and the technology all interacted with one another to produce what is still a changing art form. And I thought it was awesome. I would have thought it was more awesome if the kids didn’t act like it was recess and scream the entire time.
The exhibit runs until September 30th and you can find more information on the exhibit here on the Smithsonian’s website. And the exhibit is going to travel after it finishes there so if you aren’t in the DC area or going to find yourself there, it might be coming to you!