Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Art of Video Games

Where: American Art Museum

When: through September 30, 2012

This exhibit is rather hard for me to review, as I'm not much of a fan of video games.  I have nothing against them, and will play them from time to time, but they just don't hold my interest long enough for me to make very much progress or get very good at them.  Frankly, I'd rather read a book!  Nevertheless, off I went to see this show, and now I will review it.  Just keep in mind that these are the views of a non-gamer.

The question that the exhibit poses is: "Are video games art?"   The show attempts to demonstrate that, in the process of the gamer playing the game, the game itself becomes art.  I find that a little hard to accept.  I'll grant you that the current games on display (and yes, they have several games you can play) have amazing graphics.  One, I think it's called "Flower" allows the player to act as the wind, blowing through grass.  I'm sure there's more to the game than this, but it was beautiful to see.  The colors and the sharpness of the display were gorgeous, especially when compared to the Pac-Man game also featured.  There's no debate about the fact that games have become far more sophisticated and eye-catching, but is the fact that something's pretty enough to make it art?

The exhibit maintains that it is the interaction between the gamer and the designers of the game that is the source of the art, and that intrigued me.  Does a painting or a sculpture become art only when someone looks at it?  Surely these things are art when the artist has finished his or her work on them; no further "interaction" is needed.  I'm reminded of the "tree falling in the forest" question now.

I think this exhibit would have been better placed in the American History museum, as it serves very well as a history of video games.  No question that more people, especially kids, would see it there, and I have no doubt it would be a big hit.

Verdict:  If you like video games, run right over to see this show.  You'll be reminded of games you probably haven't played in years and you'll get to see how much things have changed since the 1980s.

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