To spoil an art exhibit about videogames, you will need:
- 1 Tbs apathy
- 14 Videogames
- 14 Misleading gallery labels
- 13 Generic controllers, damaged
Take the fourteen videogames, and place them against a black backdrop of minimalist design. Condense titles that are too large for a quick play through, into videogame trailers and pair them with screenshots so visitors know why these games are important. Next, connect generic controllers to the computers running emulation software to negate any feeling of authenticity. Damage controllers, and then attach misleading gallery labels next to each display. Ensure that the proper button configuration and a detailed description of the game are not displayed on the labels, as this will cause audiences to understand the intricate beauty of game design. Place exhibit far in an obscure corner of the museum, and let sit between the hours of 10:30AM and 5:30PM. Add apathy to taste. Serves 1-2 persons.
To really connect with a game, it must be understood at a cognitive and physical level. Anything less is akin to a blind man trying to appreciate a sculpture encased in glass; the average passerby can read those label cards, but never know the beauty of game design without holding it in their hands. All it takes is a little consideration. Flow, was one of the successful games on display. It not only had an authentic PS3 controller and an accurate controller description, but the nature of the game carries a profound tentativeness in theme and gameplay.
Technical issues and presentation aside, the overall theme of the show seems to be heading in the right direction. The selection of games are clever, avoiding more obvious examples of contemporary game design, and opting for unique experiences that may have been overlooked by even some of the more hardcore enthusiasts. Another World, released in 1991 for just about every platform available at the time, was a game I never even heard of. Exploring the game’s mechanics became a real treat, as each situation presented an opportunity to use the available toolset in different ways. The uniqueness found in Another World, appears to be the main focus of the exhibit; each game provides a complex array of sensory experiences that dabble in abstract concepts like space, time, and sound.
A dilemma arises however, when other selections like Pac-Man and Tetris, seem to be on display for historic relevance. Sure, I could understand Tetris’ mathematical beauty, but Pac-Man is probably only there because it’s one of the most iconic games in history. While this is acceptable now, the MoMA’s growing archive will present a problem in differentiating between a game’s artistic value and it’s historical relevance. Does Final Fantasy VII get a display because it’s the first Final Fantasy to be rendered in polygons? If that’s the case, the show can easily become a “gaming’s top 10.” Fortunately, it hasn’t gone that route yet.
Much of The MoMA’s game selection manages to match their mission statement, as these titles explore the different facets of game design. It’s the method in how they are delivered that really gets under my skin. No one can appreciate a game, when they can barely play it! Perhaps there was a fear in catering to the masses that resulted in the unplayablity of EVE Online, or financial constraints that held back on an UK version of Vib Ribbon. The museum’s mission statement is bold, ambitious, and a step in the right direction for legitimizing games as an art form. Sadly, their first foot in the race stumbles on itself, probably due to nervousness.