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Feb 14, 2015. - May 10, 2015.

The Art of Video Games

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The exhibit includes five working games, and thanks to local partners Dave & Buster's, Gamestop, and Flipper McCoys, we added an extra arcade room for your enjoyment. It's a free opportunity to show your kids the games you played at their age. Click image to enlarge.

The Chrysler presents an exhibition that does more than trace 40 years of creative artistry and technological advances in digital entertainment. It poses the question of whether video games deserve to be considered art.

You will certainly see artistic influences—hints of M.C. Escher in Marble Madness, or Wassily Kandinsky in Rez. There are video game lighting algorithms based on the way J. C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell accentuated their shading techniques with rim highlights. And for centuries, art has told stories. There are certainly stories here, and what makes the story complete in this genre is the player. In other words, you.

The show, organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, traces five eras of progress, each with four categories of games. Consider it a story arc that starts with Space Invaders on an Atari, progresses to The Legend of Zelda on a Nintendo, and evolves to the graphically rich epics now available on PlayStation and other platforms.

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Shown above, a screen capture from Shenmue, a Sega Dreamcast groundbreaker in non-linear gameplay. At the time of release, it was the most expensive video game ever developed, with production costs of $47 million. It was produced and directed by Yu Suzuki, widely considered one of the great game designers of all time. Click image to enlarge.

You don't have to remember Mutant Camels, Earthworm Jim or Sonic the Hedgehog to appreciate this exhibition, and if you're brand new to the field, you'll have a chance to play Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower as part of the exhibition.

The exhibit's curator, Chris Melissinos of Past Pixels, asked for public input while selecting games to be included in the show. He presented 240 possible games, and reached the final selection after 3.7 million votes from 119,000 people from 175 countries.

After touring the show, you can see every game in the exhibition on the big screen of our Kaufman Theater. From noon to 5 p.m. every day, we play the 80 game-explaining clips super-sized. They are also available via push-buttons and handsets on the exhibition's 20 display stands.

The Art of Video Games is on view through May 10, 2015, and admission is free.

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Super Mario Bros.
When the American video game market was crashing, this game turned the tide. A winner of multiple "Greatest Game of All-Time Award," it's sold more than 40 million units. For some fun, here's a video of how to make it to the end of the game while posting the lowest possible score..

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The Legend of Zelda
Another all-time award winner, Link's adventures have stood the test of time. This series has seen numerous technological advances, as evident in this fan-produced, history-of-the-game video.

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Heavy Rain
Here's an example of an industry that progressed from side-scrolling amusements to film-noir, interactive dramas. Consider, if you will, what once would have seemed crazy—a trailer for a video game.


Super Mario Brothers 3, Shigeru Miyamoto, Takashi Tezuka, Hiroshi Yamauchi, directors; Satoru Iwata, executive producer; Konji Kondo, composer, Nintendo Entertainment System, 1990, Nintendo of America, Inc.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Shigeru Miyamoto, executive producer; Eiji Aonuma, director; Satoru Takizawa, art director; Eiji Aonuma, Satoru Iwata, producers, Nintendo Wii, 2006, Nintendo of America, Inc.

Heavy Rain, David Cage, writer and director, PlayStation 3, 2010, Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC.

Shenmue, Yu Suzuki, director and producer; Yoichi Takahashi, designer; Eiji Ogawa, writer, SEGA Dreamcast, 2000, © SEGA. All rights reserved.

The Art of Video Games was organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from the Entertainment Software Association Foundation, Sheila Duignan and Mike Wilkins; Shelby and Frederick Gans, Mark Lamia, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk; the Rose Family Foundation, Betty and Lloyd Schermer, and Neil Young. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum's traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.