Videogame sexism and violence to be at heart of new V&A exhibition
With their images of scantily clad women and bloodthirsty violence, they have long been the domain of geeky adolescents and testosterone driven young men ensconced in their bedrooms.
Now the controversial world of videogames is to be at the centre of a major exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
At the heart of what is being billed as the first show by a major international museum to explore videogames, will be the industry’s frequent portrayal of women as sexual playthings.
The exhibition, to open next September, will examine all aspects of videogames – from ground breaking contemporary design to ‘player communities’ and the imbalance between the male dominated industry and the growing numbers of women gamers.
Large scale installations and hands-on interactive experiences will allow visitors to explore the rapidly changing design and technology of today’s videogames.
But the exhibition will also explore the portrayal of women in games such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto and Dead or Alive, where they are frequently represented as highly sexualised characters existing purely for the gratification of men.
Tristram Hunt, the former Labour MP and recently appointed director of the V&A said: “Gender, misogyny, violence – we are not moving away from any of that. You have to understand the design component, but you can’t remove that entirely from some of the social political context in which it is placed.
“We are going to address all of those issues. We are not going to shy away from any of that.”
He added: “It is very much the design element as well as the social element of the story of videogames. We are very happy to have them in the same building as Donatello, Botticelli, Constable and Turner. One of the challenges of the V&A is to get people to think differently about what they might not respect visually.”
The V&A, which on Wednesday launched its programme highlights for 2018 – including an exhibition of clothes worn by the great Mexican painter Frida Kahlo – described videogames as “one of the most important design fields of our time”.
Marie Foulston, curator of Videogames, said: “The exhibition will consider the development in the social and political discussions around videogames. A new wave of critics and designers are engaging directly with subjects from sexuality, violence to geo-politics and these topics will feature within the show.
“Our aim is to engage with such subjects in a nuanced and sensitive way that provokes discussion.”