‘Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt’ at V&A Dundee

25.04.19

Earlier this year, we pitched to do the marketing for V&A Dundee’s ‘Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt’. After a very successful run in London, the show was coming to Scotland and we wanted to do our best. As it often goes with tenders, we didn’t get it. Hey, you have to be philosophical! It’s (sadly) a part of working in the creative industry. Plus, it was our pals at D8 who won the pitch and they did a great job of it.

When we were preparing our pitch, we knew that win or lose we would be going to that exhibition! Reading through the research material that the guys at V&A Dundee sent over made us pee a little.

An exhibition about videogames is likely to polarise people. An example: thanks to a childhood love of the indoors, I am now nostalgically involved in the subject matter, but also thanks to that childhood, my mum thinks screens are of the devil. The beauty of this exhibition is that it shows videogames as an art form with huge cultural influence. Anyone can get into that.

The exhibition starts off with examples of games that have taken creative risks within the genre, backing it up with loads of concept art and at one point a highly detailed level plan in the form of a trusty spreadsheet (this was Anna’s favourite part).

Next up is the most impressive room of the exhibition, with an IMAX-esque screen playing a compilation of eSports footage and YouTube videos made by intense eSports fans.

Towards the end of the exhibition, the focus shifts from the creative process of game design to the social and cultural impact. Topics of sexuality; the objectification of women; our desensitisation to violence; the unethical life-cycle of smartphones; systemic obstacles for Arab-speaking designers and the lack of black protagonists in video games are all covered in one room. And it is much more streamlined and easy to digest than the previous sentence.

The whole way through the exhibition I was thinking ‘Man, this is really great but if I don’t get to play some freakin’ videogames before this is over, I’m going to cause a scene.’ Thankfully, there were a plethora of independently produced games to try out right at the end. My composure remained intact. Lots of DIY arcade machines filled the final room, each one having been hand-painted by Scottish artists. The walls of the room were covered in beautiful murals by Ursula Cheng and to top it all off, everything was glowing neon under the UV lamps. Rad.

The V&A Dundee are on the up and up, having just been shortlisted for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019, and the exhibition is running until Sunday, 8th September 2019. Do yourself a favour, and get yourself along. And drag your nay-saying relatives with you! More info available here.

—Jonny