The Art of Video Games @ the Chyrsler


I was really  amped to see The Art of Video Games at the Chrysler, but became disappointed when I walked around a PR/Marketing event disguised as a history lesson. Everything about the show felt wrong and out of place. Maybe I wasn't the intended audience and I was never meant to feel anything more than nostalgia.

The show boils down to a few game demos and a list of popular games to read about. 

I did not feel like the curators put any effort into what it was trying to tell me. The consoles they had on display were not cleaned up. If you are going to chronicle hardware, either show it well used and worn like an artifact, or restored and shiny like a time capsule. As I looked behind the glass,  the consoles felt dead. I felt like I was physically inside link bait, one large listicle that forced me to click the arrow to confirm "Yes, this is my nostalgia, I remember this fondly." 

A few ideas and concepts they included could have been really cool, but it kept falling flat.

While the exhibit had some concept art from WoW and Fallout 3, it didn't tell me anything about the creative process.

It showed one example of a remix that someone made with Halo re-imagined as an Atari game, but it was just the box art and a cartridge. It didn't take the time to show it being played, giving it context, and showing us how technology and aesthetics could be contrasted over 30 years. 

The closest thing to being remotely interesting was the three monitors showing videos of peoples reactions while playing games. But it still had little emotion for me and was presented in a pretty chintzy way. Philip Toldeano (Gamers) and Robbie Cooper (Immersion) took this concept to it's logical place. 

Then I read up on where the show came from and was shocked to find out that it traveled from the Smithsonian. But this article explains it better than I can: How The Smithsonian Screwed Up Its Video Game Exhibition

I should have asked around and found out what other people thought about the exhibit they just saw, what they felt when they played Flower or what little kids thought of the Commodore 64. Or you could watch these: Kids React To NES and Elders React to GTA

Again, maybe this wasn't for me. Maybe I'm too close to the subject material. Maybe making it so accessible and mainstream it will cause some folks to consider video games as art. 

I strongly believe that video games are a medium for art. With so many positions and angles to explore, this exhibit made no effort to make me believe it. 

Better things to look at: 

Indie Game the Movie - Made me cry and is available on Netflix 

I am 8 bit - I own this and it actually makes me thing about art. 

Free to Play - Made by Valve, and is free to watch. 

Videogame History Museum  - Super well done, and you can get a taste of it at MAGFest - A little Inside Baseball, but you are into that kinda thing, do it. 

edit: In response to some Facebook posts, I have written the following comments: 

I'm not trying to dissuasde. people from going and making their own opinions. That's the whole point of an art show. I agree that consoles are an achievement of industrial design, but the exhibit did zero work to showcase it. The screen shots they chose to represent the games in the display were not special. They didn't go into what made the hardware special. They could have explained that the Dreamcast had superior features that were ahead of it's time. They could have displayed each console with more careful considerations. They could have made it a point to take the viewer on a journey. Instead, they made a kiosk akin to what you find in a big box retailer. I've seen more artful presentations of consoles in a Redditor's home on imgur. The bar isn't that hard to set for something that travels from the Smithsonian, an institution committed to the "Understanding of the American Experience". Maybe that's the meta joke. Video games in the American context should be treated like an event of hyper consumerism. The art is contained within the color schemes of the buttons and whether or not you are driven to purchase the latest iteration at Christmas.

For me, it did not feel like an achievement of validation for gaming. I know that you have a history in game development and you should be recognized for the ability to bridge technicals with expression. Video games are a complicated medium. But I'm still frustrated with the way this exhibit was presented. When you put the same kiosk from Target into a museum, without a more cohesive statement. I'm thinking that it has an empty purpose. Your article on the impact of F2P games is cool and very valid. True critique of gaming culture demands more substance than what we got at the Chrysler. I'm making it sound pretentious, but pandering to nostalgia is just lazy.