Starting this month the Smithsonian American Art Museum will be holding a half-year exhibition on the art of video games. The Smithsonian website says the exhibit “focuses on the interplay of graphics, technology and storytelling,” and will feature both large prints of screenshots and videos from 80 titles. The exhibit will additionally have classic consoles on display and host five playable exhibits of titles from different gaming eras.
The exhibition is curated by PastPixels founder and long-time game collector, Chris Melissinos. Along with a panel of developers, designers, and industry pioneers, Melissinos picked the eighty games for the exhibit from 240 entries. According to the exhibition’s website, featured games were chosen “based on a variety of criteria, including visual effects, creative use of new technologies, and how the game fit into the narrative of the exhibition.” In the video below Melissinos explains the way the exhibit will be split up, with different areas dedicated to behind the scenes interviews and material, a space for interacting with five games, and finally an area covering the history and evolution of video games.
The exhibition is entirely free and kicked off its opening weekend with GameFest. The event featured talks with big name game developers like Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear series, panel discussions with game designers and artists, and screenings of both the original Tron and 2007 documentary King of Kong.
The exhibit’s FAQ estimates that it will take the average museum-goer at least an hour to view everything the exhibit has to offer, so visitors can be sure they’ve devoted a generous amount of space to all things gaming. The playable games featured in the exhibit are Pac-Man, NES classic Super Mario Bros, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and thatgamecompany’s Flower, which was followed up this year by Journey, another incredibly unique and artistic title. The Smithsonian FAQ clarifies that playtime for each exhibit will be limited to only a few minutes, depending upon the specific gameplay.
After the exhibit finishes its run at the Smithsonian it will move between 10 other museums throughout the US until the 25th of January.
The debate of whether or not video games are yet a respectable art form has been running for nearly as long as the medium has been around. Even though some still rally against the idea of games being accepted as art, validation given by this and future art exhibitions will hopefully work to change the minds of doubters.