The Art of Video Games Departs!
September 25, 2012
After more than six months on view, The Art of Video Games exhibition will be closing at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on September 30, 2012. It's been an exhilarating few months for those of us who have been actively involved in the exhibition, with countless programs and tours as well as the challenge of keeping all the technology functional. I will be happy to get my evenings and weekends back, but I will be sad to see the exhibition leave the galleries. The curator, Chris Melissinos and I have lived and breathed this exhibition for more than three years. We both spend as much time as our jobs allow in the exhibition space, watching visitors interact and have fun with the content. It will be strange to walk around the third floor and not hear echoes of chip music spilling into the contemporary art galleries. So, to mark its closing, I thought I would reflect upon some of my personal highlights.
One of my first "wow" moments was conducting the interviews with video game designers and artists. We did all of these during the 2011 Game Developer's Conference (GDC) and Electronic Entertainment expo (E3) (at GDC, we managed to film 24 interviews in just 27 hours!) and they were truly inspirational. We chatted with luminaries such as Nolan Bushnell and Don Daglow as well as contemporary designers including Kellee Santiago and David Cage. It was clear from all of these interviews just how much the exhibition meant to people who had dedicated their lives to this medium, and Chris and I both felt very proud to be involved in its creation.
Working with the design team at the museum was incredible. This was my first foray into exhibition development, so I had never before worked closely with our in-house experts, David Gleeson and Michael Mansfield. I worked hard, but these guys were unstoppable. And I think you'll agree that the exhibition looks amazing. This was the first time we had incorporated so much multimedia and interactivity into a temporary exhibition, and we learned a great deal from the process. Museum experiences and collections are relying more and more upon technology, so our work on The Art of Video Games will certainly inform future exhibitions at the museum. This would be a good moment to give a shout out to our lighting designer, Scott Rosenfeld, too, whose innovative work gave the exhibition galleries their unique atmosphere.
Another unforgettable moment was meeting Hideo Kojima. Just a few weeks out from the opening of the exhibition, Konami got in touch and asked if we would be interested in having him speak at the museum. Um, YES! We added the program last minute to the opening weekend festivities. When he arrived on March 17, 2012, he was wonderfully gracious and friendly - he signed autographs for every person who came to the talk (including for me!), and even spent some time on the front steps of the museum hanging out with Pac-Man. If you missed his talk, you can still watch the archived webcast.
I have so many wonderful memories of working on this exhibition that I could keep talking for days, but for the purposes of this post, my last mention will be of Spontaneous Art. These crazy guys worked with us to create live action video games in the museum's courtyard for GameFest in March and GameFest 2.0 in September. In both games, visitors battled, chased, and dodged alien-like robots (or robot-like aliens?) to complete a series of levels. In the 2.0 edition, the game included an awesome monster boss, whom you had to battle to win the game. Spontaneous Art helped create a truly memorable experience for the thousands of visitors who came to each event and added just the right amount of insanity to the celebrations.
While this is the end of The Art of Video Games at the American Art Museum, it is certainly not the end of the exhibition since it will travel to ten U.S. cities over the next 3+ years. You can see the full list on our website. If you have any memories to share or stories to tell about the exhibition, please share them in the comments below!
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