This is the first sight I see of the exhibit. I didn't really know what I was in for because it was only labeled with this writing on the wall and I could see a projector showing some game on a wall. This simplistic style worked because rather than having something jump out at me it had something that drew me in. My mind was pulled to the back wall where the projector was in anticipation of rounding the corner.
As I turned the corner into the first room I saw a bunch of nerds and nerd parents walking around to various displays in a nerdlike fashion. You know what I mean, right? They lead with their greasy, pimpled up faces, slightly hunched over, often with their arms awkwardly behind their back looking at other people as obstacles they must walk around in a hurried manner.
There were various game design sketches posted on the walls as well as quotes from people in the gaming industry. There was also a glass case showing off some vintage computer games that helped pave the way for future games. The creators of the exhibit divided the advancement of video games into five eras: Start, 8-bit, Bitwars, Transition, and Next Generation. This classification system didn't really mean much but I could see that they were trying to make an attempt at helping people understand the evolution of gaming over the past few decades. The last notable thing in this room was a funny slideshow they had running of different people's faces while playing a video game. Ever watch someone's face when they play a game? Sometimes people make really funny faces. It's interesting how people's facial expressions match real world situations similar to those being experienced in a game.
The next room was the participation room with several different classic games available to try out. They were displayed big walls with good quality projectors. The games were Pac Man, Super Mario Bros., The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower. This room was filled with little kids eager to try out new (old) games. There was this one mom rocking Pac Man who I hope got the respect she deserved from her kids. There was also this one teenager who was doing pretty well in Mario. I think he was trying to impress the toddlers behind him as I saw him clear a stage and got Mario inside one of the big castles after jumping up on that flag pole.
The third room had twenty consoles on display. All the major ones were there such as Atari, NES, SNES, N64, Wii, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Dreamcast, Playstation 1-3, PSP, Xbox, and Xbox 360 among others. You couldn't play any of the consoles but one game for each of four different categories per system could be selected to see a quick overview of that game. The categories were Action, Adventure, Target, and Tactics. As one might suspect, this way of categorizing games isn't very accurate. Some games could be argued in or out of a category and some could fit into multiple ones or none at all. Regardless, it was a decent way to try to keep a uniform way to experience a history of many games.
In addition to the consoles on display were also a couple spots for older and newer PC games. I walked over sentimentally to the DOS/Windows 95 station. Someday I'm going to write a blog about DOS games, but this is not the time for that. The game selected for the tactics category shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone, especially on this website. Starcraft was that game. I watched and listened to the little video about it and it did a pretty good job of introducing the game to someone unfamiliar with strategy games. It was described as the best strategy game ever made. It went on to say the player was the commander of an army facing real world issues such as problem solving and economy management for one of three distinct races. Starcraft is very difficult to describe to someone accurately in such a short amount of time, especially if the audience is clueless to strategy games. The concentration, hand speed, strategic planning, and on the fly decision making is something people need to see firsthand to even begin to understand the complexity of the game. Even the watered down version of Starcraft at the exhibit made me proud of my past as a Starcraft player.
All in all this was a great experience. Video games were a major part of my life as I was growing up and many of my childhood memories are directly related to the games I played years ago. Everything video game from my past I look back on with fondness and a great deal of nostalgia. Even today as an adult video games continue to play a big part of my life. I am grateful to have parents that not only bought me video games growing up but allowed me to play them a good deal, all the while never ridiculing me for doing so. Gaming has definitely positively impacted my life and The Art of Video Games exhibit did much in getting me to reminisce. If you're a gamer who appreciates the history and beauty of video games I highly suggest you check this out before it closes on September 31, 2012.
For more information on the exhibit check out the Wikipedia page on it or the less useful Smithsonian The Art of Video Games exhibition website.