An upcoming exhibit at the Smithsonian called “The art of video games” will include the M-rated 2009 game Brütal Legend.
On March 16, 2012, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will kick off an exhibit called “The art of video games,” paying tribute to games that have stood out since Pac-Man first hit home console screens. One of the things that makes this exhibit unique is the fact that voters picked which games would be included in the show, which runs through September 30, 2012.
The games will run the gamut from the petal-strewn Flower to the, er, alligator-strewn Pitfall. What’s interesting is, “M” rated games, including some pioneers in the violent/first-person shooter genres, will rub shoulders with other famous art pieces in the Smithsonian. Clearly, the art world — including that portion supported by the U.S. Government — feels that there is value to these games.
That’s quite a list, one that includes games some say caused teens to kill fellow classmates (Doom II) or toy with the occult (Diablo II). I can imagine that some people — parents included — might say such games shouldn’t qualify as “art.” Before we go down that road, consider historical works of art and fiction that might have been suspected of holding similar sway over viewers and readers. Would you keep your kids from seeing them today? Although the Smithsonian is known for pushing cultural buttons, it’s also one of the most widely respected art museums in the world.
Which is to say: there’s more to video games, particularly violent and “M” rated games, than blood and guns. There’s breathtaking art and storytelling, emotional stories, moments of tragedy and heroism. Just like in other forms of art that, though controversial in their day, have come to hold a place of respect in world culture. So why not let kids enjoy these works of art in their contemporary setting — the setting in which they were created, and in many cases the setting they are commenting on? There’s much to be said for these games.
Readers: What controversial works of art can you think of that were reviled or banned in their day that are widely respected now? Do you think video games compare?