GameFest!: An Introduction to “The Art of Video Games”


The Art of Video Games: An Introduction

Smithsonian American Art Museum 2012

By: Lawrence Napoli


[[wysiwyg_imageupload:939:]]The Art of Video Games exhibit is the brain child of Chris Melissinos a veteran producer in the gaming industry who currently serves as Sun Microsystems’ Chief Evangelist and Chief gaming officer.  This exhibit showcases the AV art of gaming from its birth to current manifestation mostly through a multitude of TV and projection booth installations that not only displays the software, but the hardware as well.  This opening weekend is being supplemented by GameFest!, a three day festival featuring open game playing, live music inspired by gaming, movie screenings and panel discussions with current industry professionals.  The lineup of industry notables is quite impressive: Don Daglow, RJ Mical, Mike Mika, Rand Miller, Keith Robinson, Paul Barnett, Mark DeLoura, Ken Levine, Kelly Santiago, Nolan Bushnell, Hideo Kojima and Robin Hunicke. 

Recognition by the Smithsonian is clear evidence of gaming and gaming culture as a significant presence within American culture beyond some taboo cult.  Art is clearly in the eyes of the beholder and while today’s AAA games rival major Hollywood films in terms of production value, the fundamentals of combining malleable imagery with sound, music and text has been a part of the video game at every stage of its evolution.  When the status of “the observer” gets elevated to “the player” the impact of the art within a video game on the individual becomes much more tangible due to the level of interactivity with said art through mechanical control devices such as joysticks, gamepads, motion control and wireless motion tracking. 

The art of the video game represents a collision of creative activities, in and of themselves, considered to be art forms such as programming, drawing, orchestrating, acting, cinematography and writing.  As media entertainment is in constant flux due to the rapid development of technological capability, the video game is merely an additional link in the chain of communication that binds humanity together; linking the creator(s) with the rest of the world.  The potential for influential social commentary remains relatively untapped as video games have not become regularly referenced in the discourse of human behavior such as literature and the cinema.  However, the gaming industry seems to be heading in that direction as games become more cinematic in its pursuit of narrative synergy with the player.