The Strong Museum of Play says an upcoming exhibit could boost its potential as a national destination.
Tentatively titled "Digital Worlds", the 24,000 sq. ft. interactive exhibit will explore the history and the cultural impact of video games. It will be part of The Strong's upcoming expansion.
Jon-Paul Dyson, The Strong's vice president for exhibits and director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, says it will be the culmination of a years-long effort by The Strong to preserve video game history and explore their meaning for individuals and society at large.
One part of the experience will allow visitors to assume the role of a character on a quest in a video game.
"You'll create an avatar; you'll go through and have physical and intellectual experiences that allow you to level up, so to speak - to gain achievement and play your way through a video game," he said. "It's really the perfect example of how the medium and the message are matched. It's an exhibit that we don't think has ever really been created before."
Dyson says video games have shaped the culture in which we play, learn, and relate to one another, just as film and television influenced culture in the 20th century and novels sparked imagination in the 19th century.
"Just as a novel increases the power of empathy and sympathy", he explained, "similarly, (video games) allow us to think what it would be like to experience the world as others. This could be anyone from a character maybe of a different gender, but also there are games exploring what it would be like to be a refugee, for instance, in a place like Sudan."
The new exhibit is being funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It's expected to open in 2022.