If you grew up with video games, and have piles of cartridges, diskettes and CD-ROMs lying around your home, you've more or less been curating your own personal exhibition of video game art in the comfort of your own home. But in your esteemed opinion, what games stand out as testaments to technological innovation or spectacular design? Coming to the American Art Museum next year, The Art of Video Games will be an exploration of how gaming has evolved as an art and entertainment medium over the course of 40 years.
But is it art? Can games seriously make the leap from toy store shelves to a museum? The answer is a qualified "yes" as far as exhibition curator and video game collector Chris Melissinos is concerned. "Video games allow for self expression, social reflection, intent and observer insight," he says. "Due to its interactive nature, video games are an amalgam of art styles and mediums that allow for exploration, by the player or observer, of the artist's intent or message. This exploration allows the player to internalize the message in a very personal and unique way. There is no other form of media, books, music, movies, or painting, that affords this opportunity. None. I have spent time in front of the paintings of Jackson Pollock and, while interesting, I found no self reflection or intent in them. I understand his technique, understand his intent, but it fails to move me at all. However, in the game Flower, there was a moment in the game where the music, visuals and actions transported me back to when I was a child growing up in New York that was so profound, it caused me to well up. It so happens that my personal reaction was in line with what the designer intended to convey. Between the two, Flower stands, for me, as a work of art."
And for those of you who were similarly impacted by gaming, now is your chance to help decide which games will be included in the show. The games selected by the curators were milestones of a particular era or genre, received worldwide recognition and were innovative on a technical and visual level.
"I wanted the people who would come to see the exhibition to experience the reflection of their desires in the materials," Melissinos says. "Not just the voice of the designers, artists and myself. Having the public vote on materials that we selected allows their participation and sense of community."
And what's Melissinos' favorite game? "If I had to pick one, it would probably be Robotron 2084. In the Robotron world, robots and computers have become self aware and realize that humankind is the most destructive force against human existence. In an attempt to save the human race, the robots take over and control the population. You are there to save the last human family from this prison."
While Robotron 2084 isn't among the 240 game titles you can pick from, you have until April 7, 2011 to cast your votes and winnow down the list to 80 games. The Art of Video Games will open at the American Art Museum one year from today on March 16, 2012.