Video games have traveled a long road to respectability in the US. The industry may never finish the winning over the hearts and minds of the older generation (we're looking at you, Roger Ebert), but in recent months the case has been stronger than ever that video games are art.
This Spring, the Smithsonian American Art Museum opened its comprehensive "The Art of Video Games" exhibition; last month, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) created a game-friendly "Arts in Media" category for its grants. Not convinced? Allow us to show you some of our favorites.
In celebration of the youngest official art form, we've assembled ten trailers and gameplay clips of the titles selected in the Smithsonian exhibition, from works with clear artistic ambitions to those with more -- how shall we say -- exploding aliens. The slideshow below includes gameplay from classics like Pac-Man and Final Fantasy VII, horror vacui visions like Earthworm Jim and Chu-Chu Rocket, and works like "Rez" that defy description.
Gamers have insisted for years that their hobby is an art form. Until recently, however, video games have not had cultural cachet, let alone funding opportunities, of the fine arts. Besides the ever-larger ambition and promotion of blockbuster games, two major factors have contributed to the recent attention. With the development of bona fide subcultures like the those surrounding World of Warcraft and other online multiplayer games, the works have earned increased academic notice. The market for mobile apps and casual gaming has also aided in the industry's proliferation, with independent developers able to work directly with powerful engines.
The exhibition, which addresses forty years of the video games' evolution, lets visitors see the progress from electronic imitations of physical games to works that strive to realize the full potential of their processors. It's this maturation that signals video gaming's arrival as an art form unto itself, and may remind moviegoers of cinema's development beyond theatre. Alfred Hitchcock once called Steven Spielberg "the first one of us who doesn't see the proscenium arch" of the stage, and maybe Jenova Chen (creator of "Flower") or Ken Levine (creator of the "Bioshock" franchise) are among the first who don't see tokens on a game board.