Big crowds expected as Dundee V&A gears up for videogames exhibition

It is already one of the world’s biggest entertainment industries.

Now a major new exhibition at Dundee’s V&A museum is set to show how videogames are tackling some of the most hotly-debated issues around the planet.

The show, which opens on Saturday, is set to captivate gaming fans with everything from original sketches, designs and storyboards to giant video walls and a specially-created 21st century amusement arcade.

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But “Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt” also explores how game designers are increasingly addressing concerns over gun-related violence, environmental waste, objectification of women, child exploitation, sex education, body image and racism.

Design/Play/Disrupt opens at V&A Dundee on Saturday 20 April.

The five-month exhibition, which covers innovations in videogaming over the last 15 years, explores how the advent of new technology has led to the “democraticisation” of the industry by making it much easier to design and play games over that period.

Leading industry experts are heard giving their views on how it has tackled concerns over racism, sexism and encouraging violence - and what still needs to be done.

The V&A show, billed as the first ever exhibition devoted to the modern era of videogames, features insights into the creation of some of the most groundbreaking games in the modern era, such as Minecraft, Splatoon, The Last of Us and No Man’s Sky, looks at the growing links between videogames and film, TV, fashion and even nightclubbing.

The exhibition was originally created for the V&A in London last year, but has been overhauled and expanded for its run in Dundee, where it will be accompanied by a specially themed “Tay Lates” event next month, as well as a gaming conference, talks and workshops.

The exhibition features a specially-created mural commissioned from Glasgow-based illustrator Ursula Kam-Ling Cheng, whose “colourful and chaotic” work, entitled Girl Evader, is inspired by virtual worlds.

Dundee’s track record in gaming, which is best known for the city giving birth to global sensations such as Grand Theft Auto and Lemmings, is brought up to date with showcases of recent titles to emerge from the home-grown sector,If Found, which follows the story of an Irish woman trying to erase the universe, and Hummingbird, which features graphics generated by algorithms that respond to the movements of the player.

Marie Foulston, lead curator of the exhibition, which runs until 8 September, said: “It’s hugely exciting to see this Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt open at V&A Dundee, in a city which continues to have such a profound impact on videogame design and culture.

“The exhibition opens up the design and culture of contemporary game design and culture in radical new ways.

“It celebrates groundbreaking work from a period of time that has been defined by a democratisation of both the means to make and to play games.”

The exhibition features a film examining the “stereotypical representations” of women in games and “the history of sexually objectified female characters serving as set dressing or props for sex and violence”.

Also included is the satirical game Phone Story, which explores the darker side of owning a smart phone, including the negative effects of gadget consumerism, including child exploitation, environmental waste and worker suicides.

A Series of Gunshots, another game featured in the show, looks at the consequences of gun violence on everyday life, while How Do You Do It? puts players in the role of a young teenage girl curious about sex and relationships.

Ms Foulston added: “Videogames have always been such a rich medium. There have always been really fascinating and interesting works created within it. But I think that we are definitely at a cultural tipping point now.

“In the 1990s it might have taken a team of hundreds, a budget of millions and several years to be able to create a game. Now there are tools that people can use at home to make their own games and there are so many digital distribution platforms to reach audiences on.

“That shift in technology has done an amazing job in empowering a new generation of games designers and creating a space for new voices.

“It’s why we’ve seen such a proliferation of new ideas and concepts.

“The thing that unites all the work in the exhibition is that they are all doing something different and challenge our expectations about videogames in some way.

“The important thing that exhibitions like this do is raising cultural literacy about the design and creation of video games. It has sometimes been a bit of an impenetrable black box, compared to things like music and film.

“Once people begin to understand videogames, the way they have developed and what it takes to get them made they become much more aware of the wide range of really radical works that have been developed over the last 15 years.

“Whether people come as a local game designer, a seasoned player, or are simply creatively curious, I hope they leave feeling inspired and with a greater understanding of and appreciation for one of the most fascinating mediums of our time.”

V&A Dundee director Philip Long said: “This is a very exciting show for anyone with an interest in art, creativity and design, as well as makers and players of videogames.

“As you walk through this exhibition you get to see how a game is designed, from the earliest sketch right through to the online communities and independent designers that are reshaping the future of gaming.

“We want to present the very highest quality exhibitions, and having such wonderful galleries enables us to create immersive, beautifully designed experiences that are really thrilling for visitors.”