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Video games as art? Smithsonian presents impressive exhibit.

instructor helping student at computer tech camp

Having recently made a trip to the Smithsonian’s ‘Art of Video Games’ exhibit, Brittany – who has directed our summer camps in New Jersey held at Princeton – provides a detailed account of her DC museum experience!  From describing the feature’s opening festivities to talking about interactive game stations and more, Brittany provides a well-rounded summary of all that’s offered.

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Spring is a fantastic time to live in Washington, DC; there is always something to see between The Cherry Blossom Festival and Opening Day at National’s Stadium.  But this spring, one attraction stood out above the rest: The ‘Art of Video Games’ exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  As an (extremely) amateur gamer and employee of iD Tech Camps, I could not wait to visit the exhibit that puts to rest the debate asking, “Are video games legitimate works of art?”

Gamefest, the exhibit’s opening festivities, was a weekend-long celebration of the culture surrounding video games.  I had a blast playing on classic consoles, hearing a game design talk by Robin Hunkicke, who worked on the breathtakingly beautiful Flower, and dancing to music by groups like 8 Bit Weapon, an electronic music duo who composes songs using sounds found in video games.  I thoroughly enjoyed the video game photo booth and was quite star struck when the cast of King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters showed up!  But, my favorite activity had to be live-action gaming – complete with robotic foes who stood between you and the next level.  It got me thinking about what games iD Tech Camps could debut this summer!

Of course, the whole point of the weekend was to experience the exhibit.  This is not your typical museum collection: it opens with five interactive game stations where visitors try their hand at games like Super Mario Bros 3 and Myst.  (I am proud to report that my old Pac Man skills are still alive and well!)

After getting my fill of play time, I moved on to the showcase of games, categorized by platform and ranging from CalecoVision to Xbox 360.  Since I participated in the public vote for featured games, I was eager to see if some of my all-time favorites like Space Invaders and Portal made the cut – and they did!  At each display, visitors can watch a short clip explaining the impact of that game on the genre in addition to viewing actual game play.  With 80 featured games, it’s nearly impossible to take it all in at once – I’ll be planning a return visit soon!

If you’re in DC over the next few months (maybe to attend our summer programs at American University), make sure to drop by the exhibit.  It’s sure to bring a smile to your face as you re-live playing through the games you’ll see, and will leave you with a new appreciation of video games as a true form of art!