The above image is from the 1982 title Microsurgeon, one of the many that are getting nods from an unsuspected group of people — museum curators. Reaching beyond the much exhausted ‘Video Games As Art And Culture’ argument, this fine group of people essentially says “yes, video games are and they deserve to be appreciated as such.”
More than just talk, they back it up by opening up museum exhibitions like those found in Germany and Rochester, N.Y. Now, gamers can add two more to their list of places to visit — the mecca of the gaming world San Francisco, Calif., and Washington D.C. Unlike the fun-to-say-three-times Computerspiele (Berlin) and hard to find ICHEG (Rochester), the two new exhibits are treating games like they are supposed to be treated — for the gamers.
The San Francisco Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE) is on a mission, one that posits “[a]ll exhibits should be playable: games are to be played, not viewed from afar or watched on video.” This is a far cry from the antique-roadshow slant of other game museums. According to MADE’s director, Alex Handy, this will be one of the many features of this unique space housing items from his own personal collection as well as those of others.
MADE is still in the development stage and plans on getting its start with traveling exhibits and social events. Handy gives the museum 15 years before it is fully ramped. By that time, he hopes it will be as big as the Guggenheim.
More than 2,000 miles across the country, a heavy hitter in the museum scene is creating its own video game exhibit which it plans on unveiling March 16, 2012. For a little more than six months, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will host The Art of Video Games. Since we’re throwing numbers around — approximately 42,000 people from all over the world visit this particular museum per month according to the Smithsonian. That means nearly 250,000 people will enrich their cultural sensibilities with video games.
What’s even more significant is the fact gamers get to vote on what games are shown to these 250,000 through a special website. Games are broken down into five eras (Start!, 8-Bit, Bit Wars!, Transition and Next Generation) and touch upon all the main consoles from the Atari VCS to the Playstation 3. You’ll be surprised by what games the Smithsonian is considering.
If ever video games are considered art, then they are part of a culture. For us as gamers to consider ourselves part of this culture, there is a mighty imperative that we participate in any way we can, whether if its volunteering to bolster a museum by gamers for gamers, or voting for your favorite games. Shameless plug or reach at dynamic journalism, I peppered this article with screenshots of some of the games I voted for. See below for more.