Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Squid fights, sex dolls and nods to modern masters … the V&A’s superb video games show kicks off in the noughties, which was just when they got interesting
Video games are a unique and sometimes messy mixture of everything from visual arts to music, coding and animation, typically experienced at home over the course of 10 hours or more. This makes them a fascinating subject for design critics and curators, but it also means that they do not adapt well to a museum setting. The soul of games – the thing that gives them their power – is interactivity, the chance to be a participant, rather than an observer. This is the very thing that’s taken away when they are placed in a museum, where they can be seen and read about – but not played.
Places like Berlin’s Computerspielemuseum and exhibitions like the Barbican’s Game On have focused on video games’ history as a technology: arcade cabinets and old computers give way to sleek-looking modern consoles, as the displayed works progress from lines and dots to pixel sprites to polygonal 3D models to realistic characters in beautifully-rendered worlds.