The Art of Video Games
From Pac-Man to Mass Effect
Publication Date: March 5, 2012
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In the forty years since the first Magnavox Odyssey pixel winked on in 1972, the home video game industry has undergone a mind-blowing evolution. Fueled by unprecedented advances in technology, boundless imaginations, and an insatiable addiction to fantastic new worlds of play, the video game has gone supernova, rocketing two generations of fans into an ever-expanding universe where art, culture, reality, and emotion collide.
As a testament to the cultural impact of the game industry’s mega morph, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, with curator and author Chris Melissinos, conceived the forthcoming exhibition, The Art of Video Games, which will run from March 16 to September 30, 2012.* Welcome Books will release the companion book this March.
Melissinos presents video games as not just mere play, but richly textured emotional and social experiences that have crossed the boundary into culture and art.
Along with a team of game developers, designers, and journalists, Melissinos chose a pool of 240 games across five different eras to represent the diversity of the game world. Criteria included visual effects, creative use of technologies, and how world events and popular culture manifested in the games. The museum then invited the public to go online to help choose the games. More than 3.7 million votes (from 175 countries) later, the eighty winners featured in The Art of Video Games exhibition and book were selected.
From the Space Invaders of the seventies to sophisticated contemporary epics BioShock and Uncharted 2, Melissinos examines each of the winning games, providing a behind-the-scenes look at their development and innovation, and commentary on the relevance of each in the history of video games.
Over 100 composite images, created by Patrick O’Rourke, and drawn directly from the games themselves, illustrate the evolution of video games as an artistic medium, both technologically and creatively.
Additionally, The Art of Video Games includes fascinating interviews with influential artists and designers–from pioneers such as Nolan Bushnell to contemporary innovators including Warren Spector, Tim Schafer and Robin Hunicke.
The foreword was written by Elizabeth Broun, director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Mike Mika, noted game preservationist and prolific developer, contributed the introduction the introduction.
*After Washington D.C., the exhibition travels to several cities across the United States, including Boca Raton (Museum of Art), Seattle (EMP Museum), Yonkers, NY (Hudson River Museum) and Flint, MI (Flint Institute of Arts). For the latest confirmed dates and venues, please visit the The Art of Video Games exhibition page at http://americanart.si.edu/taovg
Chris Melissinos, former Chief Gaming Officer and Chief Evangelist for Sun Microsystems and founder of Past Pixels (www.pastpixels.com), is the curator for The Art of Video Games exhibition, which runs from March 16 to September 30, 2012, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
Melissinos has been an active member of the video game development community for more than a decade and is best known for his role in web-based video game technology development, video game preservation, virtual world application, and lectures on the future of games and computer technology in society and education. An avid collector, he maintains a large personal collection of video game consoles, computers, and artifacts that span the 40 year history of the video game industry.
He is a frequent speaker at game and technology conferences such as the Game Developers Conference, E3, Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Penny Arcade Expo, and JavaOne, and lectures at universities and computer industry events across the globe.
Patrick O'Rourke and Chris Melissinos were connected by a passion for all things video games while co-workers at Sun Microsystems in the late 1990s. The friendship grew as careers diverged bringing O’Rourke to Los Angeles to produce photo shoots for Smashbox Studios. Now a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and video editor, O’Rourke continues his gaming ways and likes to deliver angry lectures on game strategy to pets and friends, both real and imagined, while maintaining his status as a frequent industry show attendee.
Mike Mika is Chief Creative Officer for Other Ocean Interactive. He has been developing games for nearly twenty years, running the gamut from engineer and designer to animator and writer. Most of his career was spent at Foundation 9 where he was Studio Head for Backbone Entertainment - running day-to-day operations as well as spearheading creative and business development. Mika helped launch mobile game developer ngmoco:) with some of the industry's top talent, and is a prominent figure in the preservation of videogame history. He's professionally shipped games for every platform since the Game Boy, and still enjoys writing games in his spare time. In total, he's been involved in more than one hundred games during his prolific career.
This is a lushly illustrated coffee-table book that offers readers full-page, color photographs and succinct summaries of video games, descriptions of their significance, and interviews with many of their creators. Slick and gorgeous, the book offers an important permanent, widely distributable, inexpensive complement to the exhibition. – Ian Bogost, American Journal of Play, Fall 2012
If Ready Player One was a fictional love song to video games, The Art of Video Games is the visual poem to gaming—simply a beautiful book filled with gaming nostalgia, inspired innovation and flat-out fun…Every gamer needs to have The Art of Video Games just like every English major needs to have the collected works of Shakespeare. – J. Jay Franco, Bookrastination, 3/9/12
This book belongs on the shelf of every highbrow gaming geek, but it’s also an important read for anyone interested in media studies or human expression. I want to hand this book to every naysayer who sees games as nothing more than cheap, violent, meaningless entertainment. With its engaging pictures, rich interviews, and neatly bundled history lessons, The Art of Video Games makes a solid case not just for the validity of games as an art form, but for its rightful place as one of the defining storytelling mediums of our time. – Becky Chambers, Themarysue.com, 3/16/12
I heartily recommend The Art of Video Games, not only to every gamer, but also to anyone interested in technology, and especially to those who feel games are harmful and childish…it’s a fascinating journey through time, showing how this incredible industry has become one of the most lucrative and fastest growing in the world. When next your parents ask why you play video games, just give them a copy of this book and I’m sure they’ll apologize for ever questioning your love for this truly special and important medium. – Benjy Ikimi, Avault.com, 3/16/12.
The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect is a worthy companion piece to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s exhibit. Melissinos and O’Rourke do an excellent job of laying a foundation for any reader to educate themselves on video games and their place as a modern artform. Video game enthusiasts have a lot to enjoy here, too. Besides the first-rate production values, it is a lovingly crafted narrative of the industry’s evolution from its most rudimentary beginnings to the multi-billion dollar cultural powerhouse it is today. Any fan of video games will enjoy the opportunity to pick this book up from the coffee table, flip to a random page, and immediately begin to “remember when…” – Paul Marzagalli, NAVGTR (National Academy of Video Game Testers and Reviewers), appeared in Eclipse Magazine, 3/16/12
Filled with illuminating insights and insider perspectives, these interviews will speak volumes to teens considering careers in the video game industry. In addition to YA readers, the book may also be of interest to educators looking to examine media trends, or launch a classroom discussion about viewing video games as an art form. – Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal, 3/21/12.
Designed for us short attention span readers, the well-paced, large format, $40 hardback from Welcome Books features big image screen grabs and short blocks of history and insight on 80 noteworthy games, arranged historically and by console format eras….Also rallying for the cause are short essays in the book from industry innovators like "father of Atari" Nolan Bushnell - who "knows for a fact"that gaming doesn't just keeps you sharp, but "delays the onset of Alzheimer's." So go do something artful and important - buy the book, visit the exhibit and go play a video game! – Jonathan Takiff, The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News/philly.com, 3/15/12. Widely syndicated.
In Chris Melissinos and Patrick O’Rourke’s book The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect — the accompanying book to the Smithsonian exhibit of the same name on display starting in March 2012 – the authors offer a compelling read, intriguing to both the gaming nerd and pretentious art student in me, that reads like a warm meet-and-greet without being too casual or too stuffy… the full-page screen-shots will have any reader enthralled…They have the capacity to capture us, for an instant, and draw us into an experience that is more than simply wasting time — that is potentially transformative. – Kaitlin Tremblay, MediumDifficulty.com, 3/27/12.
You cant’ go wrong with this book. It makes fo a fun read and you might learn something…coffee table worthy…fascinating…it screams “I’m smart, I like to play video games and I appreciate ART!” – Classic Game Room: Retro Video Games Book Club, video book review on YouTube Channel (201,000+ subscribers), 4/2/12. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIyV87h6x9I
…the book is a really great piece for retro video game lovers. It mixes art with nostalgia as it caries you though the different ages of gaming, showcasing classic video games in stunning layouts, drawing attention to the creative and cultural impact, all in one very classy, and affordable package. – D.S. Cohen, About.com: Classic Video Games, April 1, 2012
The Art of Video Games exhibit was base on the book written by Chris Melissinos and Patrick O'Rourke. The book is amazing. I highly recommend it to any gamer or fan of games. – Fan, RPGMachine86, 4/4/12
In the end, The Art of Video Games puts in a very admirable effort. They get the list (in my humble opinion) mostly right, and they fill out a lot of interesting history about each game, often from the perspective of the developer themselves. The interviews are top-notch, giving two full pages of insight into the past of your favorite developers, how they make their games, and what they were thinking when they did so. Want to know just what Ron Gilbert was thinking when he made Maniac Mansion (also not on this list) or Monkey Island? Here is your chance. – Ron Burke,