Gaming Articles

Video games in the Museum - V&A Workshop London

The whole team took a day out to London and we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum for a workshop on Video games in the museum. The workshop mainly discussed ways in which computer games might be best displayed and we heard from the team from “The Chinese Room” on their upcoming game “Everyone has gone to the rapture.”

Game design brings together art and technology to create interactive, narrative and playful experiences that contextualises individual components in a larger media environment.

Game designers can add different aspects depending on their own abilities and experiences. For example “The Toymaker” a game designer who enjoys creating items for the player to use such as cars and weapons like in GTA or “The Engineer” a game designer who adds customisable elements such as armour, traits and skills.

A lot of processes and ideas that might not get used in the final game still have contributed to its development never even get seen or appreciated. It is important to show these (like an artist’s sketchbook) in order to give a better understanding of the designers thoughts whilst developing the game.

“Making games combines everything that’s hard about building a bridge and hard about composing an opera”

How do we archive a game? How do we display a game to the public in a way that they can understand the game, understand the feeling the first players of the game got and do all this in a short space of time?

You can’t give someone a controller and expect them to grasp a game let alone the culture behind the game within 5 minutes. Some complicated games take a long while to get the hang of and some viewers might not even play games.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London acquired flappy birds for their archives. It is important that games are archived as it is a huge part of our culture.

Kristian Volsing – Assistant Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Kristian Volsing has been collecting games consoles from 1980s onwards to show how kids/ teenagers grew up and has even donated some to develop the game library (Rapid response collecting - Objects are collected in response to major moments in history that touch the world of design and manufacturing.) at the V&A.

Kristian talks about Flappy Birds and how the V&A went about displaying and archiving the game, and also some of the issues involved.

2013 Flappy Birds - Dom Knowing

Feb 9th 2014 was pulled from the app store by the creator apparently due to guilt over what he considered to be its addictive nature and overuse. (

Collected by V&A

The game is displayed with a looped video on a mobile handset and another handset with the actual gameplay.

Flappy Birds - V and A London

So why collect and archive games now? Some issues why a game might not be available in the future are due to software, copyright etc. or issues with working with the maker. (As with Flappy Birds)

The V&A had to ask permission from the maker of Flappy Birds (Dom Knowing) the maker agreed that the game could be displayed.

The game has been achieved with supporting material to show why this game was collected for future reference and background of the games culture and success.

They also got on of YouTube’s most popular Flappy Birds videos to accompany the game. It’s basically a guy telling you how to get good at the game then smashing the phone with a hammer. This is to show the attitude to the game and some of the frustrations associated with the game.

They have a recording of someone playing the game along with tweets from twitter which will hopefully give people an idea about the game when it becomes no longer playable.

This is a very simple game, a mobile app for more complex games illustrations, gamer artwork, marketing materials and even merchandise might be needed to give a better idea of the game.

Marie Foulston – Curator of digital design V&A

Marie is not from a museum background she's actually from a video game event organisers called "Wild Rumpus."

The V&A wants to embrace video game design and doesn't want to just show video games for people to play but show the whole genre and process behind the design of the game.

“Game designing is a design medium” - This is a great point and I think sometimes this fact is missed in the art industry. 

“Making games combines everything that’s hard about building a bridge and hard about composing an opera”

GDC 2013 Talk

Physical and concept artifacts could be used to support the game and give a better understanding, such items as merchandise, posters and concept art.

We watched a series of Footage of the development team of a game in the dessert showing them testing sand movement. The developers would run on the sand and slide all to get a better understanding for when they design the character.

Looking at the culture such as fan art, forums and social media is a good way to show what effect the game had on the players and also show how popular it was.

V&A arcade Nottingham

Festival – Game City 2015 30,000sqf

2008/9 12,000 objects to do with gaming

3 temporary exhibitions a year

People sometimes mistake the event thinking it’s going to be a big room to play games.

Educate people to the making/culture behind games.

Work with the makers to get info

A person can’t just pick up a controller to understand a game.

The Chinese Room

Everyone’s gone to the Rapture

An end of the world scenario but it’s a mystery what has happened, the player has to look around for clues to find out what has happened. The game is open world based in a Shropshire village from 1984 so the player can go anywhere making the story non-linear.

When you enter a house you can frame the scene yourself, interact and choose when to leave. The scene will continue even if you leave. How the player reacts and their experiences will be different between other players, this is what makes it so difficult to display a game in a museum and get the whole concept/experience across to the viewer.

Games have lots of other interactions due to all the choices so trying to capture an aspect doesn’t show the experience; also watching someone play shows only their enjoyment and connection with the game.

Developers – Once the game has been released there’s nothing you can do about the experience the players have, you have to let go.
It’s difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t understand code, for example you can change the colour of a door to blue and then everything else in the room goes wrong and doesn’t work.

Jessica Curry – Studio Head & Composer for the Chinese Room.

A lot of game music is looped, Everyone’s gone to the rapture has 90 minutes of music, and each character has pieces designed for them. The issue came as the game is open world so it’s difficult to write a piece of music when you don’t know what the player is going to do next.

x2 Orchestras, voice actors where used . 

“You can’t draw a vacuum but you can show the things around it.” – You can’t let a museum goer play a game to make them understand it but we can show them the culture, design processes etcetera.

Author: Bernard - World Of Board Craft
Published: 07-Aug-2015
Last updated: 07-Aug-2015 


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