Video-game fans and others curious about the medium may be drawn to the Experience Music Project, which is staging a new exhibition of rare, beautiful and outrageous games made by independent developers around the world.
There are 20 playable games in a colorful gallery space inside Paul Allen’s rock history museum, which is broadening its scope with more pop-culture elements such as gaming.
Entering the exhibit feels like you’ve stumbled into part of the EMP’s brain, or maybe a secret control room that’s filled with TVs, joysticks, tablets, game controllers and a music-mixer.
“Indie Game Revolution” opens to the public Saturday. There are no time limits and it’s open to all ages, but at least one of the games has explicit language.
The EMP was inspired to create a game exhibition after the success it had last year with the Smithsonian’s traveling video-game art exhibit. But instead of looking back at industry greats, it opted to look at the state of the art, emphasis on art.
“We’re focused on what’s happening now and not trying to hit the highlights of yesteryear,” said Jacob McMurray, senior curator.
Games on display are either unreleased or released within the past year or so. They’ll also rotate, with a dozen new games coming every two months through the exhibit, which may last a year or more, depending on its reception.
The collection includes work by developers in Europe and Japan, as well as the U.S.
Seattle is represented with displays describing it as an industry hub and by one of the games now on display, “Galak-Z: The Dimensional,” a space shooter created by local developer 17-BIT.
EMP also worked on the project with Redmond-based Nintendo of America, which is sponsoring the exhibit and has several Wii U consoles running games in the exhibit.
Nintendo was enthused because the company considers itself to be a champion of game developers, and its success is largely due to the creativity of its designers such as Shigeru Miyamoto.
“This whole exhibition is really about those individuals and their creative vision,” said David Wharton, director of marketing and analytics at Nintendo’s eShop online store.
Wharton said the industry tends to coalesce around a few game concepts, such as playing the role of a well-armed space marine or a star athlete.
“We think it’s a lot more interesting when you get beyond the edge of that, when you get into games that have a deeper idea about what’s possible and what the universe is and what people can do,” he said. “For us that’s what this show is about.”
It’s also about fun, including silly fun like “Tenya Wanya Teens,” a concept game created by Keita Takahashi, a Japanese designer known for “Katamari Damacy.” It’s a social game playable by two people side by side.
There were only two playable version of “Tenya Wanya” — which requires a custom controller setup with joysticks and two banks of 16 colored buttons — so EMP built what’s now the third version, McMurray said.
The developers describe it as a “coming-of-age tale about love, hygiene, monsters and finding discarded erotic magazines in the woods.”
Gamers with a bawdy sense of humor will call it worth the price of EMP admission.
Here’s the screenshot provided by EMP:
I made it only through the first few levels:
A few more images: