"You could say video games are a great grassroots expression of culture and in some cases art in our democracy," said museum director Betsy Broun. "I guess what surprised me was just the sort of joyful excitement in the games."
The Smithsonian's video games exhibit is the first of its kind, even though video games have been seriously popular for kind of a while. Broun notes that one game sold six million copies in a day, trumping the number of people who go to the Met in a year. Which is actually kind of a shaky justification for a museum exhibit, but it's hard to care when the end result is so shiny.
The exhibit takes museum visitors on a journey, from the humble beginnings of Space Invaders and Combat to games like 2010's Heavy Rain, "which explores the boundaries of parental love." (I've had serious enough emotional breakdowns playing Pac-Man, thanks.) Patrons can interact with the games on giant screens, making the Smithsonian's exhibit an arcade with more cultural credibility. And fewer quarters.