Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt at the V&A
Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt is a triumphant celebration of the innovative design and playful culture of video games within a rapidly changing environment. Produced by the V&A’s Design, Architecture and Digital department, which is responsible for the museum’s Response Gallery, the exhibition explores the ways in which contemporary designers push boundaries in response to social, political and economic change.
The display is in four exciting sections that offer rare insight into the creative process of developing games, including designers’ notebooks, concept art, prototypes and artistic inspirations behind large-scale AAA blockbusters like The Last of Us (2013) by Naughty Dog and independent, spiritually invigorating and endearingly expressive games such as Journey (2012) by Thatgamecompany, which is modelled upon Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. The highlights also include the magical realist adventure game Kentucky Route Zero (2013) by Cardboard Computer, which resembles the surreal game Limbo (2010) and includes a forest setting with parallax scenography in Act III that takes inspiration from René Magritte’s La Blanc Seing (1965).
Section two engages in a refreshingly informative discussion about the complex representations of race, gender, sexuality and the geopolitics of a cultural phenomenon that encompasses at least 2.2 billion players worldwide. This segment examines vital questions about the nature of play, asking “how do you do it?” and “are video games violent?” as well as making the proud announcement that video games are a girl thing. Thus, the exhibition provides “a compelling insight into one of the most important design disciplines of our time”, as highlighted by Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A.
The succeeding portion is a fête of collaborative creativity through fan art and cosplay of players in real and virtual communities, who democratise design with impressive constructions of Minecraft, the recreation of Westeros in Game of Thrones and the 2017 world finals in Beijing.
Curator Marie Foulston and research curator Kristian Volsing have compiled an extraordinary breadth of material for this exhibition of the universality of gaming, ending with a final playful look at the rise of the grassroots arcade scene that showcases unusual games made by DIY enthusiasts and interactive installations such as Line Wobbler by Robin Baumgarten, which visitors can play using the custom-made spring controller.
Photos: Matthew Pull
Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt is at the V&A from 8th September until 24th February 2019. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.