Hello, everyone. I work with Gregor as a Lecturer at Abertay University; my research is in the field of game studies,  from an art/media historical perspective.  What follows are some disparate thoughts about the exhibition of games, and how a museological approach might illuminate our understanding of the way that games are made, and the unexpected effects they might have on us as contemporary subjects.

I agree that conventional chronological approaches, as well as genre-historical ones, may not be the only best use of exhibition space, and that simply creating a space to play games ("arcade in the museum") fails to contribute to any real understand of them: it risks being a crude mechanism for naive claims of cultural significance.

Responding to the call for thinking about the relationship between producers (from solo makers to globally distributed networks of production), the objects (platforms, software, representations, systems) and publics (players and other stakeholders), scale, rather than chronology or genre, may offer another organizing principle, and within expansions of scale, we might think about the effects which games sustain, and take them as the dominant native aesthetics of games.

There are three broad categories of game-based aesthetics (in the broadest sense of the term, as descriptions of the qualia of human experience)  which I think could be considered: relational, procedural, and "twitch" (kinaesthetic/cognitive.) Of course, games participate in traditional visual, auditory and conceptual aesthetics, as well, but these three strike me as the most "native" to game design, and also represent the strongest contributions that games make to our understanding of the space of the aesthetic.

I think, following Gregor, that disaggregation of the elements of design and game experience would help foreground their contributions to contemporary culture (e.g., could we imagine Twitter and Instagram becoming important elements of network-driven culture if a set of literacies and competencies in interface-manipulation hadn't been forged by generations of game-players? Have games participated in a reorganization of human attention that has significance for other fields of cultural activity?)

¬ Wm.

-----Original Message-----
From: Curating digital art - [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of White, Gregor
Sent: Monday, August 18, 2014 10:20 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Video Games into the Museum

Johannes raises a number of interesting questions of what an exhibition of games might be like. It might be useful to return to some of the issues raised during the first workshop of the project where games designers were asked what should be in exhibited and how it should de exhibited.

The two areas where there was a broad consensus were what the exhibition should not be, a chronology, or an arcade. The rational being that chronologies are readily accessible, and besides the logistical problems (visitors spending long periods at each exhibition) of exhibiting games there was a concern that playing the games in the exhibition environment would undermine the ‘intimacy’ between the game and the played that is achieved in the home.

I found this particularly interesting. The same effect (dislocation from the intimacy of use) is true of the clothing, furniture and countless objects held in museum collections. In these collections the intimate relationship is used as much to tell us about the people who used the object as the object itself.  Perhaps drawing a distinction between this museological approach and a gallery exhibition will help to locate what kind of artefacts might be collected and how they are exhibited.

Does the exhibition of games where the purpose is to expose the relationship between the designer, the artefact and the players through the presentation of contextual materials help to locate the kind material that should be exhibited?

From: Curating digital art - [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Johannes Birringer [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 18 August 2014 19:16
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Video Games into the Museum

dear Chris, and all:

[Gary Penn schreibt]
It depends on what each object needs to say in terms of games and design.
Showing objects and their functions (even in contexts) is one thing; it's quite another to appreciate how and why that object ended up with its final function and form (and how both final function and form affect the object's presence).>>

Thanks for the clarification, Chris, though I detect a small contradiction in your conclusion: if as you believe (and I don't) we are all gamers, then the museum must know its audience and wants to appeal to all," the culturally curious of all ages, genders, ethnicities etc."

But what [well, how?] does the museum curate/exhibit, is it the wide variety and possibilities of digital games? A selection of that wide variety? in an arcade?
on/with  consoles, laptops, computers, screens, controllers?  Images? Time lines, histories?  Antiques like the Jumpman Mario, and late releases, like Grand Theft Auto V, along with critiques and panel discussions on mazes,  avatar rape?
Machinima workshops, children's tours, listening rooms for game sound tracks?

will it enable the curious to discover more about all kinds of digital games and their production?    will it mention independent festivals (I remember working with the "ScreenPlay" group in Nottingham in 2004-05, with shows at Broadway Cinema and hacker workshops, etc).

will it extract "objects" [images of objects?] from games, functions, narratives and whatever affordances (those would be experienced actually playing the games, using the interfaces, going up the levels, rehearsing, comparing?) and how will it exhibit the extractions and accessories?

how different would such a show be from an art exhibition (say, the huge El Greco show currently at the Prado in Madrid) or a sound art exhibition such as the one I mentioned, at the Science Museum ["The Exponential Horn: In Search of Perfect Sound",  side by side with Electronica, Radiophonics and Oramics, which seemed to attract the culturally, scientifically  and pop and radio culturally curious], or not? and could games indeed be perceived "as a medium and taken increasingly seriously as culture and art"?

Well, I am not sure where to go with this, as I am still quite uncertain about a critical or expository exhibit of the design processes, creativites, and interface engineering  (and Marc Garrett just announced an interesting event in Munich called "Beyond the Interface", which also seems to reference Lori Emerson's new book, Reading Writing Interfaces), and how this could be done. I went to the Gaultier show at the Barbican to learn more about the design processes and saw hundreds of fashion objects and "talking" mannequins (video projections on mannequin faces), photographs, and (combined) garments from different eras of the designer's career, but my curiosity in Gaultier's design choices, fashion and sexual politics was largely blocked as I did not understand (or was not given information) enough of the contexts, design and materials constructions, effects or impacts, the wearing, etc, so had to be resigned to enjoy the sensual beauty and the punk/funk surface craziness of the displays.

Are you imaging that the culturally curious will be prepared to read and admire the function and form and the affect of the game object's presences?

Johannes Birringer

[Chris Lowthorpe schreibt]
Things are changing. Digital games are growing up as a medium and being taken increasingly seriously as culture and art, as the increasing number of exhibitions proves. But still negative perceptions persist ­ the British Prime Minister proudly informed the media recently that his children were banned from playing games ­ and many still believe games are inherently violent or of little cultural worth. For me the exhibition shouldnąt be pandering to or reinforcing these opinions but challenging them. It should showcase the variety and possibilities of digital games, exposing the creativity and design processes behind such powerful experiences.

The reason this doesnąt appear to be happening, as I see it, is because the exhibition doesnąt currently seem to know who its audience is. This might be a result of strategic policy within the V&A ­ a desire to engage a younger audience ­ that has pushed the tone towards appealing to Śgamersą who they believe mostly lie within this target demographic, or for a variety of reasons Iąm not privy to. Whatever, I think targeting an exhibition at a diminishing niche audience of Śgamersą is not the way to go. In a society where most of us now play digital games of some kind, an exhibition should appeal to the culturally curious of all ages, genders, ethnicities etc. and enable them to discover more about all kinds of digital games and their production.

After all, weąre all gamers now.


Abertay University
Scotland's leading modern university for psychology research (RAE 2008) The University of Abertay Dundee is a charity registered in Scotland, no. SC016040

Abertay University
Scotland's leading modern university for psychology research (RAE 2008)
The University of Abertay Dundee is a charity registered in Scotland, no. SC016040