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The Art Of Gaming

The Smithsonian American Art Museum next year will host an exhibit called the Art of Video Games. The event, running from March 16, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2012, will cover the 40-year evolution of video games from 1981 to 2011.

Eighty games from this period will be on display from all the major vendors and genres. These were chosen via an online survey that recorded 3.7 million votes generated from 119,000 visitors from 175 countries. The complete winners list can be viewed here. Five games will be set up for visitors to play: Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and World of Warcraft.

As a person who spent way too much time and quarters in the game room at The State University of N.Y. at Plattsburgh in 1982 and before that as a degenerate high school student who skipped class to go to the Hobby Shop in  Greenlawn N.Y., I have a bone to pick with a few of these selections.

First, where is Asteroids? Asteroids and Space Invaders were the two huge games from the early ‘80s. Space Invaders never thrilled me, it was too static and I hated the music. My next big problem is the absence of Galaga. This is probably my favorite game of the period, more so because I was good at it than for the true enjoyment factor it brought to me. I know this sounds bizarre. Why spend money on something that was not your favorite? Because I could get my name on the Top Scorers list. DUG. While this did not get me as many dates as one might think, it did give me a higher standing among the other gamers.

However, Missile Command, which was bested by the detested Space Invaders by the voters, was by far my favorite. Perhaps because it touched upon (loosely) the Cold War that was then raging, perhaps I have a need to be a hero and save my cities from the total destruction or it was the very cool and innovative for the time track ball control.

Time has dimmed my memory so I cannot say for sure which reason led me to pour much time and money into this wonderful machine.

I do agree with several of the winning choices. I did like Defender, a tank game, that eventually led me to join the Army, (kidding) and Zaxxon.

After having spent so much time as a gamer in my teens and early 20s I have pretty much turned that chore over to my son who plays a bewildering number of games on an even more bewildering number of devices.

There are a few games I’m still addicted to that are not mentioned here. Gary Grigsby’s Pacific War and the relatively new Plants vs. Zombies.

PacWar came out in 1991. I still have the original 3.5-inch floppy. It is a strategic-level recreation of the Pacific War during World War II. The player controls everything from manufacturing to fleet, air and ground units. The game had a loyal following on Matrix Games for many years, some of the loyalists even revamped the code to make it more fun. To this day I will bring it up once every six months or so, usually after I see something on The History Channel.

I think I like Plants vs. Zombies for the same reason Missile Command proved so attractive. I have a hero complex and the desire to stop zombies from eating my brains.

I was also surprised no flight simulation games made the list. RockBand and Guitar Hero are also absent.

It is a very cool gesture to have this exhibit displayed at such a lofty museum. While I’m not so sure about the art aspect, I do think video games are now an intrinsic part of every guy’s life and should be celebrated as such.