Smithsonian’s “Art of Video Games” show redefines art, or video games, or shut up

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If you've ever gone to a modern-art show with someone who has classicist preferences, their response was probably something like, "I could do that. I should make a million dollars." And given the range of things that get attention in today's art world, you've probably, at some point, seen something that provoked that same reaction in you.

Bearing that in mind, the newest exhibit at the Smithsonian, on "the art of video games," shouldn't seem too far-out or groundbreaking, though the press coverage it's getting treats it as such. Speaking solely in terms of visual art, most video games are actually quite traditional, grounded in increasingly photographic realism. But advancing technology has also allowed designers to add layers of abstraction ranging from the cartoony to the synesthetic.

The exhibit, open to the public until September 30, traces the forty-year history of video games, from the Mondrian-esque minimalism of Ms. Pacman all the way up to Flower, a game in which you control flower petals in the wind instead of the usual weapon-bearing-troll-droid-thing. (Georgia O'Keefe would probably approve.)