Games on Display

Our glorious hobby is now so almost mainstream that it is time to give it up and complain how it was better back in the day before it got popular and spolied. Last week I couldn't sleep so ended up watching people trying to sell a Wii on one of the shopping channels. A year ago I would have smirked and sniggered my way through it as the orange hosts said the names of games wrong or struggled with the controls. Sadly it turns out the presentation was almost flawless and at one point the male orange went on a tangent about Super Star Wars and Metroid. I died a bit inside.

But shopping channels, TV shows, proper adverts aside you know that gamin has made it big when Museums put on exhibitions all about gaming. Museums are the vanguard of culture and no matter how great you thought your latest tweet was in 50 years time if it ain't in the museum then nobody will know about it. In recent years there have been a number of gaming exhibitions. Some good a la Science Museums' Game On, some experimental like the http gallery and some tangential like the Design museum exhibition a few years back.

But with rare exception the exhibitions always seem to boil down to putting consoles, peripherals and game boxes under a glass case with a boring label. A streaming video here and there if you are lucky. It doesn't make sense. You wouldn't go to a painting exhibition to see the brushes, rags and frames that were used in making great paintings and so it seems bizarre to portray the very interactive gaming through displaying a bunch of not very interactive boxes and plastic things. This is largely because these exhibitions are put on by museum people who love games and static displays is what they know. Alternatively, the people on the gaming side of things are so chuffed to be included in a museum that they don't even think to shake up the paradigm.

Game On was a great exhibition in that you could play most of the games but does a five minute hands on with Beneath a Steel Sky really portray why it was so great? How do recapture and communicate the excitement surrounding games if you display them without context next to a bunch of other games. Yes, you may get a sense of progression if you play Wolfenstein, then Medal of Honor then Halo 3 but is that really all we want to communicate?

TGAM don't do museum gaming exhibitions but here's what we would do if we did:

1) Get the Photoshop Phriday guys from Something Awful to do all the artwork both in the exhibition and on all the publicity. The gaming related Phridays really push the boundaries are demanding of the audience and have some laugh out loud in jokes. So what if the mainstream audience won't get it, snobbery is part of culture. Just look at Art galleries.

2) Okay so getting people to play through FFVII isn't going to happen in a gallery and streaming a video is even worse. I'd organise a series of events where you watch someone play through a game live. Could be boring but if you made it competitive or had the game makers on hand for a live commentary then I would go and see that shit and hopeful will have learned something too.

3) Bring in the critics. Some of the top Art critics are recluse semi-legends whose words appear only in the glossiest magazines. Gamings best critics all write freely available on the internet and out of love. I'd get them all in and do a series of events around them and their stories about games. With no thought at all we've got desert island games, my first game, the game that blew me away and who wouldn't want to see Wright, Gillen or Bartle wax lyrical in front of an audience?

4) If you are going to have boxart around I'd get the best people to interpret it.

5) Never ever display a peripheral without having one that people can have a go with.

6) Probably at the end of the exhibition we'd have a thing about how we as a people aren't preserving gaming heritage at all. Related to 1) most of the people responsible for gaming as a thing are still alive today. We have a unique opportunity to get almost 100% historical evidence and coverage of gaming yet how many of these people's stories have been recorded or written? We need to fight for our gaming heritage.

7) The Art of Games or some such, bring back the guys responsible for the most iconic images and memories of gaming. That Megaman box art, that Tetris tune, that little yellow circle who ate the smaller circles. Bring in some people who know about media to talk about why gaming in the mass consciousness still = plinky plonky chips tunes and laser zapping despite modern gaming rivalling film in terms of depicting and exploring hyper realism through to abstractness.

8) Get someone to ape this image:

By filling a real room with recognizable items from gaming past and present. We all love those images where you have to spot all the game references so by making a museum of imaginary objects real. Well we are doing something special I just don't know what it is.

So there we have it. Just a few ideas from TGAM. If you are thinking about putting on a gaming exhibition please don't do the tried and tested styles of display because that is lazy and misses the point.

P.S We're free for some free consultancy work and anything else actually at the moment.


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