It was with great joy that I heard the Victoria and Albert museum (V&A) in London was holding an exhibition entitled Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt, and even though I was fortunate enough to obtain guest tickets, the price for admission is quite reasonable, I feel, at £18.
I would say book tickets in advance and get there early for sure; this exhibition is a bit outgrown for the space it occupies in terms of how popular it is, and if you leave it until later in the day like we did you will definitely feel like you’re walking around in an eternal queue at first, unable to properly appreciate the work on display.
The exhibition opens up on all the meatiest content first, with an impressive towering screen showing clips from thatgamecompany’s masterpiece Journey accompanied by its breathtaking musical score. An entire wall is then dedicated to displaying the developers’ sketchbooks, research notes and video footage taken on sand dunes, giving a fascinating insight into the thought processes and, well, journey that the game took during its development.
Further detailed ‘behind the scenes’ of games being exhibited include, but aren’t limited to, work from Bloodborne, The Last of Us and Splatoon. Also of note is a display from Tale of Tales, a studio that I am a big fan of and whose work I have always found to be extremely thoughtful and well presented. They are most well known for their Red Riding Hood-inspired jaunt through the woods called The Path, and their showcasing of arthouse-worthy game The Graveyard is a brilliant illustration of what they’re all about.
Subjects that are most concentrated on in the exhibition are supporting artwork behind the games on display, development of different technical processes such as prototyping through to finished environments and characters, and exploration of videogames as an artform, by acting as a platform on which to make statements on politics, society and the wider world around us.
Further areas to discover are a hall showing off the world of Esports, and an interactive room full of modern arcade cabinets and several experimental games making use of physical objects, one example from Australia being the front half of a real car being used as a controller.
As a finishing touch, the shop at the end of the exhibition has a selection of game memorabilia—clothing, accessories, jewellery, and posters and prints, including signed limited edition Journey prints (if they’re still in stock that is!).
Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt is overall a fascinating snapshot into the world of videogames today, and a brilliant opportunity to see them in a multitude of lights as diverse as the people who make them.
The exhibition is running until 24th February 2019, and more information can be found at vam.ac.uk/videogames. Tickets are £18, or free for members of the V&A.