The Smithsonian's The Art of Video Games opens this Friday at EMP, and it's a visually striking first stab at figuring out where video games fit into the spectrum of creative work. There's a lot packed into a smallish space, including five playable games (The Secret of Monkey Island!), stills and clips from the 80 games on display, and a mesmerizing look at the faces of people immersed in games we call "What the Video Game Saw."
It's not possible to discuss this exhibit without taking a deep breath and mentioning the epic yes-it-is/no-it-isn't trolling that has passed itself off as argument on the subject over the past few years. To accept the legitimacy of this empty debate is an admission of defeat, and we won't dignify it with more than an acknowledgement of its existence.*
This is you. You are art!
The selection criteria were eccentric, and involved—not kidding—online voting, but it's hard to argue with the inclusion of any individual title or series in the exhibit. It's sweet to see some of the old gear on display; the ColecoVision controllers instantly Prousted us back to our childhoods. The notable absence of games for smartphones and other mobile devices speaks more to the development cycle of museum exhibits than anything else, most likely. The top-level taxonomy of game types (action, adventure, target, and tactics) posed by curator Chris Melissinos is a good starting point and could launch a few dozen masters' theses.
The EMP is hosting Game Nite this Friday from 7-11pm to celebrate The Art of Video Games, and it sounds like good fun. They'll have live tournament-style gaming broadcast on the Sky Church's alarmingly massive screen, a suite of indie game projects from DigiPen designers, speakers from Valve, Microsoft, and UW, and plenty more. Tickets are $15 for adults or $5 for kids aged 5-12. (Members get in free.) We've got two free passes to give away to the commenter who tells the best story about having an emotional response to a video game. To win, you MUST post your comment by midnight tonight and email email@example.com with your Slog commenter name, so we know how to contact you.
* Though we would like to point out one commonality between video games and art: They both attract staggering numbers of hustlers and grifters.
The Stranger Testing Department is Rob Lightner and Paul Hughes.