by Christine Melgarejo
This past weekend, a new addition was featured at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, one that’s based around our favorite past time: video games. The Art of Video Games was opened to the public on the weekend of March 16th with special events being held throughout the weekend called GamesFest. I was lucky enough to attend this weekend and check out the exhibit first hand for myself.
I got there on Saturday afternoon around 3:00 and had just made my way in to the courtyard to catch some of the musical acts they were having. I caught the tail end of 8 Bit Weapon doing an old school video game style cover of Tears for Fears’ “All I Ever Wanted”. 8 Bit Weapon actually uses vintage computers to recreate video game style music. While I was sad to not be able to catch the full show, just hearing their cover of this song was enough to make me want to check them out further.
Right after the Triforce Quartet set up. They are a, you guessed it, classical quartet that performs video game music in it’s most beautiful form. They did a Zelda medley, Final Fantasy Medley and Mario Medley, and a couple of stand alone songs (A video of the full Zelda medley performance which will be posted in the next day or two). They really were fantastic and definitely held the audience captive.
From there, I checked out the other special events going on, including pixel art for the kids, where they were given tiny cubes of various colors in order to recreate 8 bit characters, and gaming stations set up around the entire courtyard with games from Yoshi Island to Sonic. There was also a live video game going on, where kids were invited to play through an obstacle course set up by four alien looking robots. They got to work their way through 4 different levels with 3 lives assigned to them and awesome live music being played to accompany it. Iif I were of the right age and height for it, I would’ve loved to have shown them how it was done!
Checking out the actual exhibit on the third floor, the line was terribly long but moved quickly. The first room held quotes upon the walls of various people commenting on video games and how they are the sign of the times and the blueprints for technology ahead. There was original artwork and sketches for a variety of games, like Fallout, Starcraft, Sonic, Epic Mickey and Mario.
In the next room was a set up of some gaming stations that, unlike the ones in the courtyard, are a permanent fixture. Each had a timed demo, from Myst to Secrets of Monkey Island, and each had their own plaque talking about the game and its influence on future game design.
Lastly was the biggest draw of the exhibit and where people hung out the most. The last room had every system from the Atari to the PS3 on display, along with video games that were top voted by gamers for each system. PC was included in there too, to the joy of all of us PC gamers out there, with Doom and Portal being two games particularly on display. There was also an interactive experience for each where you could choose a game genre (which matched one of the four games picked for each system) and hear a bit about each game.
The exhibit is bright and colorful and very much welcoming to all, even those who don’t really play video games. I had friend with me who aren’t big gamers and who enjoyed it thoroughly. Don’t go expecting a whole floor of experiences; it’s only 3 small rooms but it covers what it needs to. And since admission to the museum is free, it is very much worth checking out.
The Art of Video Games will be on exhibit until September 30th at the Museum of American Art, then will be traveling around the country after that. For more information on the exhibit and where it’ll be touring, check out the Smithsonian’s’ official exhibit page. And check out the gallery below for more pictures from the exhibit.
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