Is the Smithsonian’s Video Game Exhibit Missing a Critical Element?

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Is the Smithsonian’s Video Game Exhibit Missing a Critical Element?

This weekend saw the opening of the Smithsonian’s exhibit “The Art of Video Games.” Gamers lined up (in costume even!) to meet Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, and the Smithsonian had one of its busiest days since 2006.  The exhibit garnered much attention before its opening – allowing the public to vote on featured games, announcing a book called The Art of Video Games, unintentionally combating renowned critic Roger Ebert’s views that video games could never be considered art…

Although the exhibit received a lot of attention, is it living up to the hype?  This is one of the first exhibits about video games that the world has seen, and every small triumph toward establishing video games as a respected medium is a crucial step.  Yet, the Smithsonian’s exhibit may not be chalking up accordingly.

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Mass Effect 3.

A recent New York Times article cited the importance of the exhibit’s existence, yet outlined the exhibit’s most crucial fault – “The Art of Video Games” is void of “any strong point of view or deep sense of curatorial perspective and interpretation.”  Rather, the exhibit is just as its title claims – an overview of video game art, not a critical look at the intellectual and social significance of gaming from its inception 40 years ago.  Tetris and Pong aren’t even included, and overall “The Art of Video Games” gears itself more toward non-gamers, who are not be familiar with where video games began and how far they have come:

“The Art of Video Games” does not represent the brash young cultural newcomer kicking in the doors of officialdom, belching loudly and declaring that he is taking over.  Rather, it represents a humble penitent carefully putting on his least-threatening outfit and being allowed to take a place in the corner.

Yes, video games are controversial.  Their mere existence in the Smithsonian has to boil some blood.  It is certainly an accomplishment for the industry just to have video games included in a renowned museum like the Smithsonian.  In that sense, the exhibit is a success.  Games are making their debut to the world as an artistic medium, as a medium worthy of museum display and curatorial debate.

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From your home to the Smithsonian - video games.

Mario has made it to museums, but is that enough?  We’d love to see gamers’ iconic mascot jumping through the halls of the Smithsonian, but the game industry is ready to make more of a big statement to non-gamers, to the population that for so long has seen games as a waste of time, money, and intelligence.  The New York Times article calls upon topics such as the depiction of women and violence in games to perhaps be used in future museum exhibits.  Just last year, games won an important battle in the U.S. Supreme Court – gaining protection under First Amendment “as a protected form of human expression.”

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KitGuru says: Let’s show the world how far games have come and where they are headed.  What elements of gaming would you like to see in museums around the world?

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