Forty Years of Video Games

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Summertime blues and boredom have gotten me surfing the web for ideas on how in the world we can get out of this house and explore something new and exciting.  We live in this vibrant area – in one direction you have Washington, DC, then drive north and you run into Baltimore, Maryland!  I grew up in Virginia, and there are still places I haven’t seen in this metropolitan mecca.  So with a Saturday of rest under our belts, we decided to head to the museums in the city after church.  It was a late start, but it was a tad spontaneous — I mean, we did go home and change out of our ‘Sunday’s best’ after all — yet it still qualified as an adventure!

A classmate had mentioned that the Smithsonian Museum of American Art was showing “The Art of Video Games” exhibit through September.  It wasn’t a mind-numbing electronic device — no, no… it was a trip to the museum disguised as a video game!  This was perfect!  So the, “What? We have to go walk around in the heat to boring museums?” morphed into, “Cool!!!  Are we there yet?”  It was magical…  I was even a little excited about it myself.  One area of graphic art that I have been intrigued by is 3D gaming animation.  I was able to get some introduction to creating a 3-dimensional space in my last summer course, but I would like to delve deeper into that virtual arena… especially with its dynamic rate of innovation!  I feel like Marty McFly hanging onto the bumper of technology with sparks shooting out from under my skateboard!  Well, if you think that last reference dates me, take a look at where the genesis of video gaming began with me… That’s right, “Era 1″… bring on your “Pac Man”, the “Space Invaders” and “Break Out!”  Those were the days, alright… when the characters were subtle and the audio was muddled.  Fast forward thirty years, and I am watching my children flailing their arms about while bringing their Miis to life in a virtual game space.  I wonder what the next 30 years will bring… Will we be installing a Holodeck in our basement for our grandchildren?  Fortunately, we’re not there yet, so I have time to savvy myself up to speed with the young-un’s and to jump into this genre of illustration.

While the exhibit was a fun stride down memory lane, it was much smaller than we anticipated.  Three virtual stations were available to people who wanted to showcase their gaming skills in public, with a loOong line of hopeful players watching on.  There were probably three small rooms with video interviews sporadically mounted throughout the exhibit — none of which I was able to hear well with the crowds.  So the obvious lesson learned here was, don’t visit on the weekend unless absolutely necessary… and if it IS the only time you can go, try to get there when it first opens.  For the homeschoolers & parents of younger children:  WARNING… I will advise you to move along quickly past the huge hypnotic wall of multiple screens.  As I was standing there trying to snap a visually interesting photograph, I was dismayed by the images of a topless women at the hub of this digital display that appeared rather suddenly (and then lingered) in the looped video sequence.  I felt that was inappropriately projected considering the target audience for video games, but I will stay off my soapbox for the moment.  At the end of the day, I would not recommend heading into DC specifically to see this exhibit, which we found to be somewhat underwhelming.  We felt that the potential to show 40 years of technological gaming evolution was underachieved.  On the upside, the kids enjoyed seeing all the different displays of games and listening to narratives through the phone tours.  Additionally, there are other engaging exhibits in the museum, and blocks of attractions to enjoy all over the city.

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