The “Are Games Art?” debate has quietly eased to a low simmer in recent months, but the Smithsonian Institute seems to be siding with the gamers in their newly-finalized 2012 exhibit, “The Art of Video Games.”
Earlier this year, the legendary historical institution named Past Pixels founder Chris Melissinos as exhibition curator and tasked him to create “one of the first [museum] exhibitions to explore the forty-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects and the creative use of new technologies.”
To determine what games would enter the exhibit, an advisory group (consisting of Melissinos and various developers, industry figureheads, and journalists) came up with a list of 240 potential titles, divided by era, platform, and category. Melissinos then opened that list to public vote, letting gamers choose their favorites. Nearly four million votes later, the top 80 games made the final cut.
The final list is divided into five gaming eras, loosely corresponding with console generations:
- Era 1: Start! (Atari/ColecoVision)
- Era 2: 8-Bit (NES)
- Era 3: Bitwars! (Genesis/SNES)
- Era 4: Transition (N64/PS1)
- Era 5: Next Generation (Xbox/PS2/Wii/PS3/360)
The title selection is an interesting mix, ranging from Pitfall to Panzer Dragoon and Marble Madness to Mass Effect. There are some choices that will no doubt be polarizing (Final Fantasy VII), some choices that won’t be questioned (Rez), and some games that surprisingly did not make the list (Ico.)
Additionally, the exhibit will feature playable games from each of the gaming eras explored in the exhibit, for weary museum-goers to pass the time: Pacman (Era 1: Start!), Super Mario Bros. (Era 2: 8-bit), The Secret of Monkey Island (Era 3: Bitwars!), Myst (Era 4: Transistion), and World of Warcraft (Era 5: Next Generation.)
As hilarious as it would be to see a bunch of nerds bring their laptops to the museum for a LAN party, I’m not exactly sure how WoW is a good choice for a time-limited play (and what character will be available?), but no doubt Melissinos will come up with something worth while.
The Smithsonian Institute’s “The Art of Video Games” exhibit will run from March 16, 2012 to September 30, 2012 in Special Exhibitions Gallery of the American Art Museum.
The 80 entries of “The Art of Video Games” exhibit are:
- Era 1: Start!
- Atari: Pac-Man, Pitfall!, Space Invaders, Combat
- ColecoVision: Donkey Kong, Pitfall II: Lost Caverns, Zaxxon, Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator
- Intellivision: TRON: Maze-Atron, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Star Strike, Utopia
- Era 2: 8-Bit
- Commodore 64: Jumpman, The Bard’s Tale III: Thief of Fate, Attack of the Mutant Camels, Sid Meier’s Pirates!
- NES: Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda, 1943: The Battle of Midway, Desert Commander
- Sega Master System: Marble Madness, Phantasy Star, After Burner, Spy vs. Spy
- Era 3: Bitwars!
- Sega Genesis: Earthworm Jim, Phantasy Star IV, Gunstar Heroes, Dune II: Battle for Arrakis
- SNES: Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Star Fox, SimCity
- Era 4: Transition
- PC: Doom II, Fallout, Diablo II, StarCraft
- N64: Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye 007, Worms Armageddon
- Dreamcast: Sonic Adventure, Shenmue, Rez, ChuChu Rocket!
- Sega Saturn: Tomb Raider, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei, SimCity 2000
- PS1: Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII, Einhander, Final Fantasy Tactics
- Era 5: Next Generation
- Xbox: Halo 2, Fable, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
- Xbox 360: Bioshock, Mass Effect 2, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II
- PC: Portal, Fallout 3, flOw, Minecraft
- GameCube: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Star Fox: Assault, Pikmin 2
- Wii: Super Mario Galaxy 2, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Boom Blox, Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure
- PS2: Shadow of the Colossus, Okami, Gradius V, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- PS3: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Heavy Rain, Flower, Brutal Legend