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Take a stroll through 'The Art of Video Games'

An exhibit at the Smithsonian takes a look at 40 years of video games and the unique conversation among the game, the artist, and the player.

The video game hall of legends at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Blake Patterson (

If an art museum existed in video game heaven, it would probably look a lot like "The Art of Video Games" exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Twenty game consoles and more than 80 games star in the multimedia exhibit that "focuses on the interplay of graphics, technology, and storytelling" in video games. Spanning consoles from the retro Atari to the modern PlayStation 3, many great game titles like Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. 3, Metal Gear Solid, and Bioshock made the cut.

The exhibit, which opened last month and runs until September 30, features terminals showing videos and images from the last 40 years of games. Visitors can check out interviews with industry pioneers, or peep at videos showing the evolution of avatars and the jumping, running, climbing, and flying game mechanics throughout the last several decades.

More than 119,000 people participated in a vote online last year to whittle a list of 240 video games down to 80 games for the exhibit. Each gaming system features four video games, broken up into action, target, adventure, and tactics categories.

Throughout the halls, near-mint consoles from the past and present live in glass enclosures at the bottom of each terminal, collectively showing off a rather grand evolution in video game hardware design. Those with antsy hands can play five classic games on a big screen, ranging from Pac-Man to Super Mario Bros. Various collections of mammoth screenshots, concept art, and classic game box covers adorn the area. Projectors illuminate inspirational quotes on the walls like, "Games have so much freedom. You can go anywhere you want" (by Jenova Chen).

The $40 book "The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect" serves as a compendium to the exhibition, written by curator Chris Melissinos. After its Washington, D.C., run, "The Art of Video Games" goes on a 10-city tour through 2016.