Today the Smithsonian American Art Museum announced that both thatgamecompany's Flower
and Ed Fries' homebrew Halo 2600
have been added to the museum's permanent collection. Both games were previously on loan to the museum as part of "The Art of Video Games" exhibition, which garnered headlines
when it opened back in 2012 for being one of the first big showcases for video games as art
Of course, Flower
was released as a purely downloadable game, which raises a few thorny questions about how, precisely, the museum hopes to preserve it over time so that visitors can play it in its original form 15, 50, or 150 years from now. Thankfully, Smithsonian American Art Museum curator of film and media art Michael Mansfield shed some light on the topic in a brief interview with Gamasutra.
"The Smithsonian American Art Museum worked directly with Jenova and Kellee to receive and acquire Flower
on a Blu-ray disc. In terms of preservation, the disc provides a physical and verifiable data set which will act as a preservation format," said Mansfield, via email.
Mansfield also claims the museum acquired a few PS3 consoles that will be devoted exclusively to playing Flower
, becoming exhibit pieces that will "live with the artwork in perpetuity and be cared for along with the museum's other electronic artworks."
In other words, Flower
will be running from physical media on a dedicated machine, like many other pieces of electronic artwork in the museum. That includes Halo 2600
, which progenitor Ed Fries started selling in limited quantities as an Atari cartridge via Atari Age
stakes out some very interesting ground identifying the video game as a democratic mode of expression," continued Mansfield. "As a home-brew game -- albeit by a recognized brewmaster -- authored in the margins, Halo 2600
offers a kind of haiku-like virtual essay on the reach and potential of video game culture, and on the character of human imagination with technology."
The games will continue to be a part of the exhibition, which has been touring the country for more than a year now, and will continue to do so through 2016. You can find more details about the games in the exhibit and see where it'll be, when on the Art of Video Games exhibition website
According to Smithsonian American Art Museum Public Affairs Officer Laura Baptiste, Flower
and Halo 2600
are the "first video games accessioned into the museum's permanent collection." Both games were already on loan for display in "The Art of Video Games" exihibition, but they have now been gifted -- along with limited rights -- to the museum.
They are expected to be displayed in a playable form in one of the museum's galleries at some point, where they will stand alongside a "significant number of electronic and media artworks already represented in the collection, along with paintings, sculpture, etc."