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Smithsonian introduces video games to its collection

Categories: Featured, Gaming

FlowerThe beautiful and evocative Flower is one of two video games the Smithsonian has added to its permanent collection. (Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago/Sony Computer Entertainment/Smithsonian American Art Museum)

For those who might still think video games aren't worth one's time, the venerable Smithsonian begs to differ.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum announced this week the addition of two game titles to its permanent collection as part of its growing commitment to preserve video games as an artistic medium.

"Video games represent a vast, diverse and rapidly evolving new genre that is crucial to our understanding of the American story," film and media arts curator Michael Mansfield said in a statement.

"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 two titles couldn't be more different.

Described as "a video game version of a poem," Flower is an unusual and innovative title that stretches the definition of a game: users play as "the wind" and, while moving through changing, dynamic environments, navigate flower petals through the air.

Halo 2600, on the other hand, distills the action of the blockbuster Halo sci-fi series and blends it with a nostalgic look inspired by the classic, late-'70s Atari console. It was created by the former head of Microsoft's game studio, Ed Fries, whose Atari 2600 first inspired him to learn programming.

The move is the Smithsonian's latest tip of the hat to gaming culture, coming after its 2012 exhibition The Art of Video Games, currently on a 10-city U.S. tour.

Moving forward, officials say they plan to acquire further video game titles that explore the boundaries of gaming as an art form and working with creators, developers and programmers on how best to represent the field in its collection.

Halo 2600Halo 2600 was created by former Microsoft game studio head Ed Fries and pays tribute to classic gaming. (Ed Fries/Smithsonian American Art Museum)

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