Adventure!, Half-Life 2, Final Fantasy VII… the argument about what the greatest video games of all time are has raged since the medium went mainstream. But, now, one of America’s greatest artistic and educational institutions tries to settle the debate, one mouse-click at a time.
Opening on March 16th of next year at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Art of Video Games will feature eighty video games that stand out from the thousands released since the home console era exploded with the dawn of the Atari 2600. Games are being recognized for their artistic sensibilities and innovative design and the exhibit will make certain titles available to play during the coming months. Voting happens artofvideogames.org and categories get broken into five eras: Start! (1970s to early 1980s), 8-Bit (1983-1989), Bit Wars! (1989-1994), Transition (1995-2002) and (2003-present day). The titles assembled vary widely– Space Invaders, Donkey Kong Country, Shenmue II, Halo 2, Flower, Call of Duty: Black Ops, to name a few –but all mark high points in video game history. Sadly, the explosion of mobile gaming post-iOS doesn’t seem to be well represented, nor do any of the antecedents that appeared on other handheld devices like the Game Boy or PSP.
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Still, the nominees cover a lot of ground and voters will have to make lots of tough choices when it comes to deciding what to show the love to. Along with classic video game hardware and huge prints of screenshots, gracing the walls, Art of Video Games will also have video interviews with respected and pioneering developers like God of War originator David Jaffe. Voting ends on April 7th, but no matter what titles make the final cut out of the field of 240, the landmark exhibit will still mark a watershed moment for the video game medium. Video game creativity doesn’t just make a lot of money; it also impacts mainstream culture and it’s great for a hallowed institution like the Smithsonian to recognize that.