The Smithsonian American Art Museum is hosting an exhibition titled “The Art of Video Games.” It includes five playable games (Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst and Flower). Raph Koster speculated on his blog that the entry-level content might appeal most to those “who were mostly reminiscing about the Commodore 64 (based on what I overheard).”
Approximately 25 percent of the adults I know do not play video games regularly (or claim not to do so). Of these, almost all of them feel that not playing games is a normal behavior—something you grow out of. According to anecdotal evidence—oh, and market research by those who sell games for a living—this assertion is as wrong as they come. Females over age 18 play—yes, play, not buy—video games more than males under 17, for example.
Where do we get our attitudes about play? I’ve never met someone who claimed, with a smug shake of the head, to be “too old” for movies or novels (media with a similar cultural history). How does someone maintain this attitude about video games despite usually being the only adult in the room who doesn’t play them? Oddly, I see frequent Bejeweled and Farmville updates on Facebook from my friends who “don’t play” games.
Is the Smithsonian’s exhibition a good way to breach this barrier? How do you reach out to those who don’t (openly) incorporate play into their identities? I’ll need to look into this question more in the coming months.