How’d this make the cut? A look at the Smithsonian’s “Art of Video Games” exhibit

The Smithsonian on video game art yesterday. The majority of titles were selected by an online vote that took place over the last few months (and I totally participated in). It’s an interesting list of games, and I encourage you to take a look at it before I spend the next several paragraphs complaining about the inclusion of certain titles. Because this is the Internet, and that’s what we’re all about.

To begin with, the title of this exhibit, Art of Video Games, is a bit of a misnomer. It sounds as though what they’re primarily concerned with is graphics or aesthetics. However, the games are divided by genre, indicating that gameplay is of come concern. (And some of these genres don’t quite match up… Diablo II is a “Target” game? What the hell does that even mean?)

I'm pretty sure that just because you can still buy Diablo battle chests here doesn't qualify it for a genre reclassification.

So, if we’re looking at landmark titles in both artistic style and gameplay, well… some of these don’t belong. Here are some of the standout offenders:

Brutal Legend:

Full disclosure: I never played this game. However, while it has its defenders, the overwhelming opinion of Brutal Legend is that it was a game with a cool premise, superb production, and wildly inconsistent game play. This, in turn, led to some (keeping in mind that video game reviews work off a 6-10 scale). I got the feeling that people really wanted to like Brutal Legend because of , and less because the game was actually a lot of fun. And I can understand that. Tim Schafer is a cool guy, and he deserves a lot of credit for his work in the world of PC gaming. And hey, lookie there, is on the list already! So… why is this on here again?

Oh, don't give me that look. I don't care who voices you, I still don't get why you're on the list.

Metrod Prime 2: Echoes

When Nintendo announced that a new Metroid game was coming to Gamecube, there was much nerd rejoicing. Then they said it was going to be a 3D, first-person action game. Uh… there was less rejoicing after that part.

But Retro Studios, the guys behind Metroid Prime, pulled it off. In a lot of ways, the transition to 3D was a smart move on their part. They left the rather arduous task of trying to live up to Super Metroid to Nintendo (), and instead tried to build something new that kept the spirit of the series intact. And they did. And the fans rejoiced some more.

Then they made a sequel that introduced a really annoying dual-world mechanic that nobody liked. That’s the game that’s on the list. Yeah, I don’t know why either.

Star Fox: Assault

Remember that really fun rail-shooter on the SNES with the animals that talked in gibberish? It had all the crazy polygonal graphics and used that special chip! They even had that extremely surreal bonus stage where you blow up paper airplanes and fight a slot-machine at the end. Man, that game was awesome.

Whatever happened to that series anyway? I mean, they had that pseudo-remake for the N64 that was pretty great. I used to enjoy doing barrel rolls in the tank…

Huh? They made a really terrible Zelda-clone with dinosaurs based on it? Uh.. that sounds remarkably stupid. What happened after that? Did it ever go back to being a rail-shooter? Like, with the space ships and the lasers and the pew-pews?

What do you mean sorta? Okay… so you’re telling me they made a game where you do get to pew-pew, but it’s mostly on land? Wait, and on foot? In large, boring stages? Next thing you’ll tell me is that your teammates are just as annoying as they were in the previous games, but now speak in coherent English.



Every Legend of Zelda Known to Man:

OK, it’s not quite that bad, but yeah, Zelda gets a lot of love on this list. Which it totally deserves, it’s an important series. But do we really need to honor every single Zelda title that was a console first? It’s a common complaint against the series that the gameplay doesn’t change all that much, so we’d be looking largely at aesthetic differences. In that regard, Wind Waker is the only one that really stands out from the other 3D titles.

Ultimately, what my complaint really comes down to is that this exhibit can only display so many games, and I feel it’s a shame that several slots are going to one series. Perhaps they could have given Zelda its own “multi-platform” exhibit that showcased examples from the history of the entire series, and allotted some other deserving games a chance at the spotlight. I don’t think any gamer would be hard pressed to come up with several titles that aren’t on the list.

Plus, I mean seriously, you’re going to include all these Zelda games, but leave off Link’s Awakening? For shame, Smithsonian. For shame.

Play me out, Keyboard Cat Awesome Ocarina Guy.

2 Responses to “How’d this make the cut? A look at the Smithsonian’s “Art of Video Games” exhibit”
  1. says:

    Great point about the review scores (6-10). Below 9, you’re underappreciated. Below 8, you’re underdeveloped. Below 7, you’re under the bargain bin. Below 6, you’re under the dumpster. I mean, when you reach those 3-5 levels, you’re already in the pantheon of bad games.

    • aflaten says:

      Yep, which leaves 1-3 as completely useless byproducts. The whole Brink fiasco over the last couple of days is a prime illustration of the flaws in the review system. But yeah, this is nothing new.

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