Yesterday I went to le Grand Palais in Paris to attend “Game Story“. This exhibit organized by the RMN (a French museum institution) and MO5 (an associated devoted to video-game and computer platforms) addressed the history of video games, from “big white squares” to 3D displays, from arcade box to mobile consoles.
The exhibit is not just about looking at old cubic machines scattered in the magnificent palais since people can also play with most of the devices. This is actually quite interesting as there are two things that attracted my attention there: the game platform and the way people used it. As most of the pieces are not brand new (and given that people could use them) you could see traces of dust and dirt here and there… which is always a good indicator of an artifact relevance. Those traces of human activity reminds us that these pieces make sense to people and they really enjoy using them.
Observing how people “use” with pieces in museum is generally limited to Contemporary art exhibit with interactive artifacts… and perhaps it’s far less interactive than a whole aisle made of video-games. Even security members chatted with visitors to discuss the pluses and minuses of game controllers and specific titles.
Interestingly, the exhibit is not just about platforms; you also have plenty of artefacts from what shaped the video game culture : RPGs, toys, magazines among other pop-culture objects. This is quite good as it allows the attendants to draw some comparisons between contextual elements (that could be related to kawai or heroic-fantasy content) and what’s exposed on the game console per se.
Such an exhibit also reminds us of the difficulty to maintain this sort of non-tangible material. Most of the pieces presented are based on cartridges and electronic devices (with some CD/DVD-based games) but it becomes harder with cassette and even more impossible if you want to consider early network-based platforms (Minitel games, the beginning of the Web).
Why do I blog this? On a more personal note, I definitely enjoyed spending time there because of the game controller book project. No big surprise for sure but it was an occasion to see the artifacts I am writing about and to observe how people interact with them.