by Perry Piper
Most people would say that literature, paintings and film are established as legitimate art forms because their long existence and large creator and fan base can be said to have advanced each medium to the point of mastery. Video games are a newer form of entertainment that aren’t widely accepted as art. One definition of art is that “purposely arranged elements entice one or more of the senses, emotions or the mind.” Anyone who was born in 1970 or later has had a good chance of playing and enjoying video games, compared to previous generations.
The Portland OMSI currently has an exhibit through September 18 on the history of video games. Starting in 1830, with early versions of what we today call Pinball to prototypes of future games, each section of the exhibit is professionally displayed and offers many appropriate examples for each time period or subject. Games like Bagatelle (predecessor to Pinball), Pong, Mario, Wii Sports, Halo Reach, Pacman, Zelda and Sonic the Hedgehog are all represented as some of gaming’s most famous titles. “Game On 2.0” takes a look at game design, development and production. Original concepts, character art and famous arcade consoles each have their own section within the exhibit hall.
Being quite the gamer myself, I was surprised to find many game machines I had never even seen or heard of before. It’s funny to look at games like the Atari, where the original controller had one joystick and one button and its successor added a few buttons to the same controller concept. They do the same thing with modern games, in order to make them more complex and immersive by giving players more options or ways to interact with the world. The standard gaming controller now, aside from the mouse and keyboard, has 11 buttons, two joysticks and some kind of hand-molded design to fit your hands comfortably.
Genres are explored in “Game On 2.0,” which can be quite eye opening for people new to the medium. I saw racing, fighting and puzzle, but today there are numerous sub genres that can make a tired style of play fresh again. The exhibit moves from when games were mostly pixilated, cute titles to high production cinema quality experiences that take hundreds of people and years of hard work to come onto the market.
The very newest games that were shown were the various motion control games, like Kinect, Wii and the Playstation Move and 3-D games that required glasses. OMSI even had one display they created called the “Virtusphere.” I didn’t personally try it, due to the immense number of people in line, but watched a computer monitor that showed what was happening. Someone wearing a virtual reality mask and holding and motion sensitive gun was inside a 10-ft tall hollow sphere so that when they walked in any direction, they were stationary and the sphere rotated. Watching the monitor, I could see that they physically had to turn around and aim the gun, mimicking a closer-to-reality experience. It was very impressive, as I had never seen a mechanism for walking around virtually that was pulled off so well. The main problem with this demo was that there were so many new controls or things to remember that most people ended up standing still and shooting the ground, while getting attacked by a mob of enemies.
I was reliving my childhood while walking around each display since many of the popular titles were ones that all of my friends enjoyed back in the day. My friend Nick Thompson, who is very competitive, accompanied me at OMSI and challenged me to every game possible, whether the game be old school or modern. The exhibit was very fun and informative, too. “Game On 2.0” includes 125 playable games that will fascinate long time fans, the family and newbies alike.
If You Go
“Game On 2.0”
Exhibit runs through September 18.
1945 SE Water Ave. • Portland, OR
503-797-4000 • omsi.edu
Perry Piper attends Lower Columbia College, where he plays French horn in the Symphonic Band. He enjoys a technological lifestyle and has faith that even people over 50 can get on board.
OMSI is a great place! Have you gone? What has been your favorite exhibit? Let us know by commenting below.