Dr. Nohs Asks What is Worth Exhibiting?

A lost Van Gogh

The Smithsonian American Art Museum will be holding an exhibit from March to September of next year titled The Art of Video Games. According the the exhibit’s websiteThe Art of Video Games is one of the first exhibitions to explore the forty-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects and the creative use of new technologies.” It’s exciting to know that the idea of video games as an art form is gaining wider acceptance, but I think I might already have some qualms with how the exhibit is being set up.

According to the website “The exhibition will feature eighty games through still images and video footage.” First, I don’t think a choice of 80 video games could effectively show what gaming is. If you consider everything that could be a part of the exhibit besides consoles, PC, and their games, there’s also handhelds, mobile devices, tablets, LCD handhelds (Tiger, Game and Watch, etc.), mp3 players, and even graphing calculators. Pretty much anything with a screen has video games available for it. If you consider this, 80 games is too small of a number to explore the vast world of video gaming.

Second, I have an issue with the fact that still images and video will be used to exhibit these 80 games. If video games are an art form, then why have another medium portray them in their stead? This would be the equivalent of going to a concert, but instead of hearing music being played, you went to the venue and read about the music.

“Five games will be available for visitors to play for a few minutes, to gain some feel for the interactivity—Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower.” Finally! Wait, only 5 games!?

I think I understand the problems with this exhibit. Because videos are a product of mass production, it probably makes less sense to have a large amount of video games playable since most of the games being exhibited are readily available through retail stores or digital distribution. I can only imagine the amount of parents dropping off their kids for the afternoon because they can’t afford or don’t want to pay for daycare. It would probably be the classiest arcade ever.

I think the title an focus of the exhibit should be changed from The Art of Video Games, to The Art Behind Video Games. I guess it’s too much to ask for now, but in the future, I want to be able to go to an exhibit, play a video game, and let the art speak for itself.

Here’s a complete list of games that will be on exhibit. What would you like to see added or removed?

1943: The Battle of Midway
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
After Burner
Attack of the Mutant Camels
Bioshock
Boom Blox
Brütal Legend
ChuChu Rocket!
Combat®
Desert Commander
Diablo II
Donkey Kong™
DOOM II
Dune II: Battle for Arrakis
Earthworm Jim
Einhander
Fable
Fallout
Fallout 3
Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy VII
flOw
Flower
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
Goldeneye 007
Gradius V
Gunstar Heroes
Halo 2
Heavy Rain
Jumpman
Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II
Marble Madness
MassEffect 2
Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Metroid Prime 2: Echos
Minecraft
Okami
Pac-Man
Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei
Panzer Dragoon Orta
Panzer Dragoon Saga
Phantasy Star
Phantasy Star IV
Pikmin 2
Pitfall II: Lost Caverns
Pitfall!
Portal
Rez
Shadow of Colossus
Shenmue
Sid Meier’s Pirates!
SimCity
SimCity 2000
Sonic Adventure
Space Invaders
Spy vs Spy
Star Fox™
Star Fox™: Assault
Star Strike
Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator
StarCraft
Super Mario 64
Super Mario Brothers 3
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Super Mario World
The Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate
The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
Tomb Raider
TRON: Maze-Atron
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Utopia
Worms Armageddon
Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure
Zaxxon

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

    Completely, 100 percent agree. You do not know a game unless you’ve played it, so the title of this exhibit is a misnomer. 

    All the same, I’m glad they’re affording us the respect we deserve, so I’m not gonna make a fuss about it. 

  • Anonymous

    Suikoden.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dustin.hall1 Dustin Hall

    Yep. Ebert can suck it. 

    I posted the links to the initial survey for this thing back when they were initially prepping the show. Its been a long time in the making. We had similar complaints, in that the sampling of the games was small when taken against the totality of gaming. Honestly, I had just wished they’d let the 3 top choices for each genre into the show, instead of just 1 each. Also, there were times that a more ‘popular’ game would beat out a vastly superior Indy title during the voting process. 

    One day, I’d like to see a fully encompassing exhibit for some of these titles, where you can, as you say, play the game and experience the art, but then also see the art behind the games, and then see the cultural impact of that game, with Mario Bros showcasing their TV shows, toys, tributes, and a billion rave-kids in costume.