ReasonTV Replay: How Washington Learned to Love Video Games

Earlier this week the Smithsonian American Art Museum
the acquisition of two video games into their
permanent collection – “Flower” (2009) by
Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago of thatgamecompany and “Halo 2600” (2010) by
Ed Fries. According to the museum, “these acquisitions build upon
the museum’s growing collection of film and media arts and
represent an ongoing commitment to the study and preservation of
video games as an artistic medium.”

Back in 2012, ReasonTV coverd the museum’s breakthrough
exhibition, The Art
of Video Games
contrasting it with the anti-gaming
congressional hearings
of the 1990s. 

Here is the original text of the July 18, 2012 video:

The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s exhibit, The Art
of Video Games, is the latest sign that official Washington has
finally learned to love Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, and their
digital spawn. A mere two decades ago, members of the nascent
gaming industry were hauled before Congress and publicly scolded
for promoting violence, sexism, racism, and even crimes against
humanity. As Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) stated in his opening
remarks at a 1993 hearing, “Instead of enriching a child’s mind,
these games teach a child to enjoy inflicting

But then a funny thing happened: As video games became
ever more popular, brutal, and artistic, violent crime in America
was declining precipitously. As parental and legislative panic over
violence—both real and imagined—subsided, the gaming industry
blossomed into the multibillion dollar business it is

The video game hysteria of the 1990s followed a
predictable cycle, explains University of Southern California
sociologist Karen Sternheimer: “Ever since the first nickelodeon
[movie theater] opened there are people who were afraid of the
impact of popular culture and tried to regulate them right

And just like film, rock music, and comic books before
them, video games are no longer merely tolerated, but embraced by
Washington, from the formation of a new congressional caucus to the
placement of campaign ads on XBox games to the entombing of a
Commodore 64 behind plexiglass at the

“This exhibition could not have happened at any other
point in history than right now,” declares Smithsonian curator
Chris Melissinos. “For the first time we have gamers raising
gamers. I believe, from this point forward, you are going to see a
greater more rapid appropriation and acceptance of video games as
anything from art to a worthwhile pursuit.”

Roughly 5:30 minutes.

from Hit & Run

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