Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Static vs. Interactive

As some of my fellow noodlers have already heard, I went to the Art in Video Games exhibit at the American Art Museum over the weekend.  Now, going in I basically knew the title.  I'm a big fan of science museums, in part because they tend to employ a good level of interaction, but given that it was an art museum I expected this to be more static, which was fine.  I want to say, up front, that I am still thrilled that this exhibit exists.  I'm not a huge gamer, but certainly even my peripheral awareness can tell the difference between Super Mario Brothers and World of Warcraft and see that there has been a clear effort to render not just graphics but worlds. And, you know, it was free.
There were a few stations up front that had videos of folks talking.  One of them had a guy talking about the complexity of music composition for a game where the player doesn't have to progress in a linear fashion, which I found really interesting.  There were stations with several games, mostly of the old school style.  I was there on a rainy Saturday, so was unsurprised to find the stations all taken with small children.  (I heard one kid getting off the elevator say with glee, "I've never gotten to play a game in a museum before!")
The next segment perplexed me.  There were stations again, divided by gaming system listing four categories of games per station, with one display of each (I guess that was the art part) stacked on top of each other and each station had a handset where you could listen to something.  (I tend not to like handset displays, and again, many were already occupied.)  Now, this may be a non-gamer thing, but displaying by game system seemed an interesting choice.  Certainly the systems have different capabilities and games offered, and I'm sure that has some effect on the art, but it seems like the modern systems advances have been more about the player method of interactions, and not so much the graphical display.  And the choice to stack the art in static form in columns of four meant that it looked almost like the art wasn't the focus at all. 
I, personally would have been fine with the art being displayed in static images so you could better examine the detail, but the back lit graphics just looked washed out and busy since they were all jammed up together.  Hopefully more exhibits like this will occur.  The NPR Monkey See blog has a post suggesting it was the committee/populist nature of the selections that is the problem.  Possibly so. I still recommend stopping by if you can. (For non-locals, this exhibit is set to travel.)