A new exhibition at the Ming Contemporary Art Museum in Shanghai explores the intrinsic relationship between video games and life.
An exhibition that documents the past seven decades of the gaming industry and its relationship with humans is now on at the Ming Contemporary Art Museum in Shanghai.
Scheduled to run until March 28, the exhibition Player of Beings features multimedia works of international artists at the forefront of contemporary art related to gaming and explores the development of humans' gaming experiences through videos, images and interactive facilities.
"Gaming is not only an influential industry that evolves with technological advancement, but also an activity that affects people's lives," says Qiu Zhijie, curator of the exhibition and director of the museum.
"The show will facilitate discussions on the relationship among games, social changes and human beings."
The history of gaming is shown through demonstrations of game-related advertisements and video-game consoles, like the ATARI 2600, released by US video-game developer Atari Inc in 1977, and Subor D99, which was developed by Subor, a company based in Guangdong province in the 1990s.
"Another valuable exhibit is Apple II that was designed by Stephen Wozniak, the cofounder of Apple Inc, which facilitated a new era of personal computers through its graphics-computing power. Apple also laid the technological foundation for video-game advancements afterwards," says Chen Baoyang, another curator of the show.
Visitors can enjoy an immersive experience starting from the second section of the exhibition, which features a host of game consoles they can play on. Each visitor will be provided with two gaming tokens.
Following this section is a space equipped with sofas, surrounding vintage computers and consoles.
"This is a relatively private zone for visitors to reminisce about the time when personal computers brought the joy of the arcades right into their living rooms, with no limit to time or tokens," says Chen.
Over the net bar and esports sections, visitors are whisked away to the period in time when players no longer had to fight over controllers, as local area networks and the internet allowed them to play virtually. Exhibits in these zones include the classic first-person shooter video game Counter Strike.
Another highlight of the exhibition is the 112-square-meter playground filled with trampolines, slides and ball pits.
"This is exactly how kids originally played for joy, and it shows people's original thirst for games, either by playing with sand or jumping up and down the stairs," Qiu says.
The essence of gaming is also illustrated by a 4.6-meter-long and 7-meter-high installation on the wall. A steel ball about the size of a fist passes through the installation and runs through various routes each time according to different rules.
"Gaming is a course where players familiarize themselves with rules and are constantly led by the rules to reach different results. Exploring uncertainties in the process is perhaps why most people love games," Chen says.
An interactive device titled Fall Again, Fall Better by artist Jeffrey Shaw explores another aspect of games-their relationship with life and death. Here, visitors can determine how computer-modeled characters on the screen move-stand on the pressure-sensitive floor mats and the characters drop; exit the mat and the characters stand.
"Due to a special algorithm in the device, the characters will fall in different positions each time, and this signifies that life cannot be repeated," Qiu explains.
"Games usually reflect real life, not merely modern life. Many games, including the popular run-and-gun video game Contra or adventure-game series Super Mario, are rooted in history, legends or myths. For instance, the characters' badges and armors in the multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft are influenced by medieval knights," Qiu says.
Other themes such as the impact of games on family relationships and friendships are also featured at the exhibition through artworks like the interactive installation Be Ready, which was created by students at the School of Experimental Art at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.
If you go
Player of Beings
10 am-6 pm, Tuesday to Sunday, through March 28. Ming Contemporary Art Museum, No 436, East Yonghe Road, Jing'an district, Shanghai.