I was just home in Chicago for a couple of days, and had a chance to visit the Museum of Science and Industry, which is currently host to Game On, an exhibition on the history, culture, and future of video games. We visited the Museum of Science and Industry quite often when I was a child, both as a family and on class field trips, so it was both gratifying and strange to see the games I played as an adolescent historicized in a museum context. This exhibition, which was previously shown in a slightly different arrangement at the Barbican Art Gallery in London, is the most extensive exhibition of its kind, certainly more comprehensive than the respectable Digital Play exhibit at the American Museum of the Moving Image in New York.
This exhbition was arranged, for the most part, very intelligently. For one thing, the majority of the exhibit is playable. More than 100 historically important video games are available for play, most in their original platforms, or in the best available emulator. This made me wonder about the curatorial problem of keeping multiple copies of the hardware available and running. I’d imagine that over the six month run of a popular exhibition, they will go through a lot of controllers, for instance, many of which might now be difficult to find. But an exhibition of video games that you could not play would be about as useful as exhibition of video art that you could not watch.
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