news\ Dec 19, 2013 at 11:50 am

Smithsonian American Art Museum adds Flower, Halo 2600 to permanent collection


The long-winded debate as to whether or not video games should be considered art can finally be laid to rest. The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the largest museum in the world has already answered that question by adding two video games to its permanent collection: thatgamecompany's Flower, and Ed Fries' Halo 2600, a side-scrolling de-make of original Xbox shooter Halo.

“Video games represent a vast, diverse and rapidly evolving new genre that is crucial to our understanding of the American story,” said Michael Mansfield, curator of film and media arts. “‘Flower’ and ‘Halo 2600’ are important additions to our collection, but they are just the beginning of our work in this area. By bringing these games into a public collection, the museum has the opportunity to investigate both the material science of video game components and develop best practices for the digital preservation of the source code for the games themselves.”

The museum released an official statement earlier this week calling Flower an "important moment in the development of interactivity and art." The innovative game from the minds of thatgamestudio's Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago puts players in control of the wind as they explore a world designed as an "interactive poem in response to the tensions between urban and rural space."

The museum goes on to say that Flower "presents an entirely new kind of physical and virtual choreography unfolding in real time" -- the game's interactivity was of major importance to the game's inclusion. "The work cannot be fully appreciated through still images or video clips; the art happens when the game is played," the museum states.

Halo 2600, meanwhile, was designed for the 1977 Atari 2700. Rather than offering super-realistic graphics that many of today's games display, Halo 2600 "deconstructs the gamers' visual and virtual experience and returns game play to its most basic mechanics." According to the museum, it illustrates the "ever-changing relationship between technology and creativity."

“Introducing these two games to the permanent collection simultaneously is notable,” said Mansfield added. “Whereas they may have dramatically different visual approaches—the lush and emotional landscape of ‘Flower’ versus the elemental figures and mechanics of ‘Halo 2600’—these works taken together stake out the rich creative and conceptual potential in video games.”

The Art of Video Games exhibit was organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2012. It's currently on a 10-city national tour.

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