Our Visit to the ‘Video Game Art Exhibition’

 videogame art, artist, pop culture

I recently wrote a post that expressed my love for videogames, I also reflected on their relevance as a source of education for many young people.  This was inspired by the Phoenix Art Museum’s (PAM) installation of a video game exhibit.  I finally made it to the exhibit and today I will be sharing with you my response as an artist and videogame fanatic.

Let me start off by saying, this exhibit didn’t fit the hype.  It wasn’t a bad installation,  It was somewhat stimulating, but I have to say, it was kind of one note.  It just didn’t reach my expectations.  I had a feeling this was going to be an interactive exhibit.  and it was, but I expected tons of  artwork too.  I expected storyboarding, sculptures,  and scripts.  I was expecting a little more depth.   The exhibit consisted of 2 smaller rooms and 1 large main room.  Within these rooms I came across a glass case that had some concept art inside.  These drawings are awesome!  You can tell how quickly these artists work.  Almost as if their hand can barely keep up with their brain.   As  amazing as these drawings are, there was definitely something left to be desired.  It may have a lot to do with the fact that I love drawing so much. And that I went there with the expectation of being surrounded by storyboards and sketches.

concept art, sketches, amazing drawings,
Concept Art for Fallout 3 and World of Warcraft

If you’ve walked through a used videogame store then you’ve seen most of this exhibit.  There were some older things and a few rare systems that are worth mentioning.  Old systems like the Sega Masters System and the Intellivision System.   But as I was leaving the exhibit I thought, what about hand-held systems?  I was also hoping to see some remnant souvenir from one of the video game events.  In the late 80’s early 90’s there were some amazing video game contests.  During these events they would have rare items and release innovations for the future.  For example the Nintendo Powerglove.  Oh man,  I just don’t think there was ever anything as epic as the Powerglove.   The more I reflect, the more I realize this exhibit lacked a lot of consistency.

design, custom art, nintendo art
Nintendo Powerglove

powerglove 2Okay,  that was a little brutal, and now I’m feeling guilty, so let’s talk about some positive things about this exhibit.  I loved seeing the transitions that videogames went through since the early 80’s.  There has been a lot of growth and development in the last 30 years.  Development in video game styles, graphics and technology.  Now you have videogamers who prefer action packed ‘first person shooters’ or realistic sports games.  But me, I am an adventure, RPG (role playing game) super fan.  Games like Zelda and Final Fantasy.  After talking videogames with a few fellow nerds, the consensus is that Zelda clearly paved the road for fantasy video games. Even though I love Zelda, my heart belongs to Final Fantasy.  And there was barely any Final fantasy at this exhibit.

NES,  Nintendo, ZELDA, art, artist, design, art
The Legend of ZELDA


portrait artist
The Legend of ZELDA:  a Link to the Past

I gotta say,  Seeing some of these systems and videogames streaming on different monitors was very nostalgic.  Being at the museum, watching people get excited about videogames is something I’ll always support.  Videogames are such a huge part of the culture and community.  But if I’m going to be honest, it didn’t take long before my kids said “Dad, I’m bored.”  So we went home, plugged in the old SNES and started playing Mario.

videogame art,


Videogames Shaped my Education. A post in Honor of Phoenix Art Museums Video Game Exhibit.

Phoenix Art Museum (Video Game Art Exhibition)

The Phoenix Art Museum (PAM) is featuring an exhibition all about video games.  This is one of my favorite places to visit and it is an amazing tool and resource that promotes both art and education.  Once I heard there was a video game exhibition coming to town I began reflecting on whether or not video games should play a role in the world of education.  Video games clearly provide an outlet for art and fantasy, and after reflecting a bit, I realized I definitely needed to write about my feelings towards video games.  Both from the perspective of an artist, educator, and fan… or should I say, ‘Superfan!’ 

As a teacher I’ve been approached about video games by everyone, from other teachers to students and parents. A common complaint from teachers and parents is: “Our kids play too many video games!” This makes kids defensive but I understand how the kids feel. They want to ditch school to stay home and play video games all day. As entertaining as video games are, they also played a huge role in me developing a passion for art. The question is – are games responsible, at all, for my education?

The truth is, some video games are violent and some are inappropriate, but this also relates to a common misconception that anything that plugs into a PlayStation is intended for someone 12 and under. This is most certainly not the case. I might also add that many of these inappropriate games were of no interest to me.

I played a little Mario Bros in the 90’s just like every other kid. By the time I hit middle school I was conquering whole worlds, saving planets, and obsessing over RPGs. I had demanding parents who said I should put away those games and actually read a book; I was “rotting” my brain. However, if they would have stayed with me for an hour, they would have watched me read for at least a third of that time. They would have seen me problem solve and brainstorm. In RPGs like ‘Final Fantasy’ you are required to follow detailed directions (even take notes at times) and apply prior knowledge from the game and from life.

In games like this you grow to be compassionate for the characters, villages, societies and cultures. In final fantasy you watch how a monarchy and a democracy play a role in different towns and distant places. You have to know how to balance a budget and some games even ask you to run an entire community. Then there is the fiction! The amount of fantasy and creative art is just erupting from every corner. From subtle quirky characters, to elaborate landscapes and purple sunsets.

I have been an educator for 3 years. I have worked in several different public schools and listened as teachers and parents continue to blame video games for destroying our childrens’ minds and diminishing their ability to learn, which clearly isn’t the case. At the same time, I hear these parents mention how violent and inappropriate these games are for our kids. I want to say to these colleagues, and parents that the next time they watch their 9 year old play ‘Modern Warfare’ or ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ try not to decide at that point that video games are to blame. Be advised that there is a sticker on that game that says, “Intended for Mature Audiences!” I certainly don’t want my second grader playing a game like ‘Grand Theft Auto.’ You can apply the same advisory when reading books to children. Believe me, I think books are amazing for kids, but when I was teaching kindergarten I never invited my students to the rug for story time so I could read them excerpts from Fifty Shades of Grey.

As a child I hated school. I got all Fs since elementary school and I was labeled as a big fat failure! I would skip class and I would daydream about my fantasy world. I couldn’t wait to get back there. A world that I never shared with anyone else because they just couldn’t see it as the positive thing it was. I hyper focused on those games. I have an obsession with story telling, fantasy, art, drawing, and imagination. I want to surround myself with fantasy and creativity. I may have failed a few math tests when I was in school, but did I rot my brain playing video games instead of studying? The answer is no. They gave me the education that public school didn’t. It made me the artist, teacher, and compassionate family man I am today.