National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art – Seoul (Corea del Sud)

Game Society is an exhibition that examines how the grammar and aesthetics of video games have influenced contemporary art and visual culture, and permeated our society and daily lives over the five decades since the launch of the first video game. Video games encompass interface design for visual and auditory stimulation, storytelling that spurs the imagination, immersive experiences and social interactions, which makes them the most relevant media form today. Game Society takes a closer look at the process of powerful synchronization between society and video games that has been accelerated by the pandemic. It explores the context in which society becomes virtual spaces and the reality of those spaces becoming part of everyday life, examining what experiences games can communicate and share with us. The exhibition features 9 video games and more than 30 artworks by contemporary artists who have been influenced by the grammar and aesthetics of video games. The games on display include Korean video games and select loans from the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which have been acquiring games since the early 2010s.

To read is to imagine a world, to watch a movie is to observe that world, and to play a video game is to live in that world; the imagination and realism have become a shared experience and visual grammar in modern society. To play a game is analogous to contemplating and appreciating contemporary art in that it requires active participation in a work of art, during which the audience can attain a moment of art. However, the worlds within games are still imperfect. There is a marked lack of diversity in games, where virtual worlds are populated by hyperbolically perfect physiques, and women, the aged, weak, or disabled are either not represented or appear as non playable characters. As in real life, it can be difficult for them to find ways to access games and their digital environments. In contextualizing digital spaces and games in an exhibition, the MMCA, as a space of inclusion, proposes a reimagining of our society where gamification has become part of everyday life, examining gaps and empty spaces in games. In the end, presenting games in the museum is directly linked to the issue of the museum’s accessibility. Playing a video game is not different from viewing an art exhibition in that a video game’s tutorials resemble an exhibition guide with its set routes, exits, and entrances; the accumulation of experience and skill by playing a game resembles the increasing fluency and appreciation of art by visiting exhibitions and museums.

All the video games in this exhibition are available for play. Audiences can play them with Gaming Accessibility Controller designed and developed by the Korea National Rehabilitation Center Assistive Technology Open Platform, along with Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller devices. As video game critic C. Thi Nguyen noted, games are “the art form of agency.” As such, the exhibition offers audience ways to gain fresh perspectives on the issues that emerge when they gamify their daily lives by providing universal and expansive controllers. In a similar spirit of inclusiveness and accessibility, the exhibition also provides online projects organized with PACK.

For the MMCA, this exhibition is a celebration of what video games and art museums share in their experiences. The exhibition is also an active endeavor to share the common act of accessing and reflecting on video games and the art museum, observing the roles and spheres of the individual and the public. In both video games and art, it is the application of contemporary knowledge and social experiences, and the speculation that it provokes, that creates an opportunity for us to reevaluate the world we live in. In this sense, the intention of Game Society is to provide the audience with the opportunity to contemplate and question the efforts and attention required to make public places and games more inclusive, reframing where we might wish to redefine our common goals. Through games as an artistic medium with cross-generational appeal, the exhibition hopes to provide the full sensory gamut to each individual in a unique way that serves the artistic experiences and values of each person best.