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The Smithsonian Says Games Are Art, OK

EDIT: OK! Looks like the Smithsonian’s site is struggling a bit. If you get an empty black space, just leave it. The voting application will load eventually.

Some things in life are certain. The sun will rise. We will age. Games will continue trudging their way towards being a globally respected medium like some decades-drunk bachelor trying to find his way home.

RPS reader Delirium Wartner sends word that the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC is going to be hosting an exhibition entitled The Art of Video Games which “will explore the 40-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium”, and they want YOU (read: whoever) to vote on which games should make the cut. If you’ve got 15 minutes to spare, the voting process is easy and makes for a fun trip down memory lane. Most of the time, anyway.

Naturally there’s also a fair bit of “Wait, why is THIS game in here? Why isn’t THIS game in there? I can’t breathe! My soul is shrivelling up like a raisin!”, but for the most part the Smithsonian’s choices encourage nothing but a grin of fond remembrance. They’ve divided the candidates by platform, era and genre, and there’s usually at least one game in each category that I’d say is visually striking.

Where I expect things to get a little divisive is in the categories where classics like Deus Ex make an appearance. I mean, I’d be the last person to argue that Deus Ex didn’t contain some striking imagery…

(Exactly who commissioned that statue, anyway? Who thought it’d be a good image to provide for the employees of MJ12?)

…but I get the feeling Deus Ex is going to dominate its category purely because it’s Deus Ex, when Deus Ex was everything but a stylistically innovative game. And then there are the even more baffling choices. Baldur’s Gate II? Beautiful art, but horrifically cropped by the resolution limitations of the engine. Uplink? You want to try and show someone a beautiful screenshot of Uplink? In theory, the voting process will eliminate games with comparatively staid visuals, but in practice I can see people voting for the games they recognise and condemning hundreds of thousands of well-meaning strangers to stare at a real-life picture of Command & sodding Conquer.

Not sure quite why I’m being so cynical about this. Videogames in a museum! Hooray.

Any games in there you’re glad to see, readers?

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