ZKM_Gameplay is the new permanent exhibition on the theme of video games and experimental forms of play. The opening took place as part of the festival of science EFFEKTE on June 21, 2013. Computer games have been exhibited at the ZKM | Karlsruhe since its opening in 1997, as they represent an essential part of the digitally marked life-world. Since then, numerous new forms of artistic, experimental, media-reflective as well as ‘serious’ types of games have been developed. Today, the cultural influences and economic force of the games have become very pervasive. This has made the games an important object for the ZKM | Media Museum.
ZKM_Gameplay extends across the entire 2nd floor of the Media Museum. A varied selection of exhibits is on display: a large area is dedicated to works of game art ranging both from art which has computer games as its subject, and computer games designed by artists. Added to this are computer and video games, which illustrate the entire range of the medium and make these experienceable in the Media Museum.
One main area of focus is taken up by independent games and serious games; approaches which have distinguished themselves, for example, by particularly innovative games ideas, an interesting experimental claim, a powerful cultural effect, or a unique consciousness of its own means and forms of expression. Adventures, such as Jakub Dvorský’s “Botanicula” or Krystian Majewski’s “Trauma”, platform games, such as Jonathan Blow’s “Braid” or racing games, such as Mario von
Rickenbach’s “Krautscape” comprise the diverse facets of video games. In “Journey”, the player discovers with a teammate a mysterious desert landscape, and, in “Shadow of the Colossus”, the player engages in combat with giants the size of a house. Classics, such as “Pong”, “Pac-Man” or “Super Mario World” still form the genealogical gallery of this presentation.
The exhibition’s special highlights are, among others, the game “The Night Journey” by internationally known media artist Bill Viola. In “The Night Journey”, the artist translates the video aesthetics, which he has developed and perfected over many years into the interactive form of a computer game.
Feng Mengbo, from China, is represented by his spectacular work “Long March: Restart”, which has already been exhibited at the MoMA PS1. The work of art comprises a sixteen-meter long projection, on which unfolds a game designed by the artist. Feng Mengbo is the first artist to have been allowed to exhibit a computer game at the Documenta 2002 as a work of art.
The artist Mary Flanagan shows the work “[giantJoystick]“: the threemeter high sculpture consists of a functioning joystick. Due to its size it has to be operated by at least two persons with unified forces.
The artist couple Jodi, present non-representational games. Jodi (Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans) have transferred brutal first-personshooters into abstract forms, and thus make visible their mode of functioning.
The age ratings of the games in ZKM_Gameplay range from 0 to 12 years-old. Most of the games are suitable for children, but may also appeal to adults in the same way.
The game “Heavy Rain” is recommended from the age sixteen upwards. This is an adventure in which, in an interactive thriller with film noir elements, players go in search of a kidnapped boy. The game “Limbo” is a platform game in a sinister comic style, and sixteen years is also the recommended age. As a critical commentary on violence in video games, the artist group “and-or” from Switzerland presents the game “Laichenberg”. In conventional first-person-shooters it is usual that a figure which has been shot down disappears from the game as if by magic. The Swiss art project criticizes the brutality of many video games in that this does not occur, namely, in “Laichenberg” the shot figures do not disappear, but rather gradually begin to clog up the playing field so that the game finally metaphorically suffers a heart attack.
Image: Ed Key, David Kanaga, Proteu“, 2012© Ed Key, David Kanaga.