The debate as to whether or not video games can be considered art may finally be put to rest. The Smithsonian American Art Museum has added two games to its permanent collection of film and media arts. “Flower” the 2009 PlayStation Network title developed by Thatgamecompany and “Halo 2600” an Atari 2600 re-imagining of the original Halo for Xbox, created by Ed Fries in 2010.
The Smithsonian actually ran an exhibit between March and September of 2012 called “The Art of Video Games” where as their website states they sought to “explore the forty-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium.” The exhibit highlighted multiple generations of game systems going as far back as the Atari VCS and showcased 80 games along with developer commentary and interviews.
The difference between that temporary event and the selection of these two titles is the Smithsonian is considering them to be overall representations of what the video game medium is artistically capable of. “Introducing these two games to the permanent collection simultaneously is notable, whereas they may have dramatically different visual approaches—the lush and emotional landscape of Flower versus the elemental figures and mechanics of Halo 2600—these works taken together stake out the rich creative and conceptual potential in video games.” said Michael Mansfield, the museum’s curator of film and media arts.
It’s reassuring to have video games properly represented by an institution as prestigious as the Smithsonian. While violence and sex in video games is often the focus of media attention its nice to know that elsewhere the artistic value of the medium is appreciated. I’d be interested to know what other games may someday find themselves on display alongside the likes of other exhibits like the hope diamond or Wright brothers plane. Let us know what games you think would be a good choice in the comments section!