The Smithsonian American Art Museum yesterday acquired two games for its permanent collection. One of them seems right at home — Flower, the independent title almost universally praised by critics for its artistic flourishes. The other is, basically, Halo if it was made for the Atari 2600.
Halo 2600 by Ed Fries (a former Microsoft games publishing executive) was a flash game originally launched in 2010, and is Fries’ vision of the seminal Xbox shooter if it had been built for the primitive gaming consoles of the early 1980s. I’ve written about it twice, taking it to be a joke or a novelty “de-make.” But some people are very serious about Halo 2600. Serious enough it’s gotten a cartridge release. And, serious enough that it’s in the Smithsonian. So, I stand corrected. But seriously, Halo on the Atari VCS/2600?
“Flower and Halo 2600 are important additions to our collection, but they are just the beginning of our work in this area,” said Michael Mansfield, the curator of film and media arts at the museum. “By bringing these games into a public collection, the museum has the opportunity to investigate both the material science of video game components and develop best practices for the digital preservation of the source code for the games themselves.”
Flower and Halo 2600 were also part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s 2012 exhibit “The Art of Video Games,” which was on view at the museum for six months last year and now is on a 10-city national tour. It is currently at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y., until Jan. 19, and will go to the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, N.Y. from Feb. 15 to May 18, 2014.