Art Perspective: The Art of Video Games

The acceptance of video games into the artistic community is really just a matter of time.

Hey arty people, video games are coming to a gallery near you (If you live in or are visiting the US anytime soon)! It€™s true, the art-form that is gaming is about to make it into a real gallery space thanks to the forward thinking people at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The last Art Perspective focused on the subtle inclusion of Apple€™s iPads in David Hockney€™s work, but this week we see gaming fully embraced by the gallery world with the forthcoming exhibition The Art of Video Games. The exhibition title might suggest that there is a focus on cutting edge arty games or the obscure indy market, but this is not the case. The games are all fairly mainstream and popular titles, showing that the whole gaming medium is worthy of praise, whether it is a modern FPS or a classic 8-bit adventure. Initially the curators selected 240 titles which were then put to a public vote to determine the 80 games that would make it into those white gallery walls. The games will be displayed through screenshots and videos and have been divided into five different eras. The chronological sections are designed to show the evolution of gaming as well as exploring the artistic nature of the medium. The exhibition starts with classics such as Combat for the Atari 2600, followed by the original Donkey Kong and Pac-Man and continuing right up until our current generation with Super Mario Galaxy 2, Halo 2 and BioShock. Everything in-between is covered too; Tomb Raider, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Earthworm Jim, Star Fox, Phantasy Star and Attack of the Mutant Camels all represent their part in gaming history.
Perhaps the most interesting notion about the games selected is that not many people were raving about their artistry at the time of release. All of them are no doubt great games, but as artistic platforms they have been over looked. This no doubt strengthens the argument for video games to be taken seriously as an art-form. Surely we can see the artistry, skill and craftsmanship that goes into making Mass Effect as much as the same skills that go into creating other masterpieces, whether they are paintings, sculptures, theater, film or photographs. The acceptance of video games into the artistic community is really just a matter of time. Most newer mediums that are now undeniably celebrated as art-forms had a hard time at first. Photography, for example, has only recently been fully accepted as an art-form in its own right. The early days of cinema were far from the massive creative outlets that they are today. Games will be accepted and it's just a matter of time, the smart guys at the Smithsonian are early adopters and hope to demonstrate this. The only criticism I have is that the games will be displayed from screen shots and videos, which essentially over looks the qualities of the medium. The whole point in video games it to be played, they are enjoyed in a different way to other artistic visual mediums. This is something that can be worked on in future gaming exhibitions, but the Smithsonian is certainly moving in the right direction. This is a big deal for us video games advocates, as it€™s pretty much the first time that games are being taken seriously as an art form and placed in the most arty of spaces; the gallery. So if you are going to be around the Washington DC area from March 16th to September 30th, check it out, it will be interesting to see how Uncharted 2: Among Thieves or Final Fantasy VII will be represented in a gallery, support your medium, you might even enjoy it.