Video games are a new media which first appeared in the early 1970s and have steadily developed into a major cultural industry. From the outset, this new media stimulated much discussion and analysis, focused mainly on the social or personal impact of game playing. This exhibition takes a different approach, looking at video games
from an aesthetic and cultural angle. This is the first exhibition held in the renovated South East Gallery in the Grand Palais.
An aesthetic and technical history
The history of video games goes hand-in-hand with the evolution of technology, which allowed game developers to create increasingly rich and varied worlds and game experiences. Thanks to increasingly powerful computer components, each new generation of video game hardware has enjoyed greater design possibilities not only visually but in music, sound and interactivity.
The first video games were big white squares; the most recent have high resolution or even 3-D displays and an infinite variety of graphics styles and visual worlds. The first sounds were simple electronic beeps; now, symphonic music, veritable soundtracks, is composed specifically for video games. The joystick for the earliest video games had just one button to move a racket from left to right on a screen; now game consoles detect the movements of the players, who are themselves the game interface.
Throughout the history of video games, images, sound and interactivity have kept pace with developments in technology, leading to a succession of styles, each with a particular visual and sound mood and degree of interactivity.
A cultural history
Apart from aesthetics and technology, video game history is also a cultural history of new contemporary imaginative worlds which arose from the encounter between the cultural backgrounds of the United States, Japan and Europe, and more specifically France, which is a leader in this field. Through design supports as varied as the cinema, European animated films, Franco-Belgian comics, American comics, Japanese manga, Japanese anime and American TV series, new worlds have been created. Video games draw on all these sources and influence them in their turn.
The history of video games is also that of industrial and graphic design, which can be seen in the shape of the consoles, the layout of specialist magazines, the design of game boxes and advertisements. Each period has specific "visual moods", which the exhibition will explore through various objects related to video games and other supports for the new imaginary worlds.