Overall, the ambience of the Museum of the Moving Image is minimalist. The white walls and floors allow for visitors to focus solely on the exhibits in front of them.
However, walking up the sleek white steps to the third floor, one would be under the impression that an arcade had replaced one of the exhibits and in a way, it has.
The newest display at the Astoria museum is entitled “Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games” and it is much different than any of the museum’s other exhibitions.
Gaming has come a long way since “Pong” in the 1970s but with major companies including Microsoft and Sony infiltrating the gaming world, independent game creators have had a hard time keeping up.
The Museum of the Moving Image and IndieCade — the international festival of independent games — partnered to honor more than two dozen games that represent the diversity and innovation of the indie video game scene.
All games were created by individuals or small teams working independently of large studios and publishers.
Among the games are popular and groundbreaking titles such as “Minecraft,” and “Braid,” as well as underappreciated ones such as “QWOP” and new discoveries like “Gone Home.”
But what makes the “Indie Essentials” exhibit so great is that visitor participation is not only encouraged, it’s required.
Games are set up everywhere and the dimly lit room allows visitors to focus their attention on the glowing screens in front of them and the best part is, they can play as many of them as they wish.
These games include the 2013 IndieCade Festival-award winners presented alongside the games that have impacted game design and the gaming culture in the last decade without the massive budgets major companies have access to.
In the gaming world, IndieCade is referred to as the “Sundance of the video game industry” as it supports independent game development globally through a series of international events highlighting the rich, diverse, artistic and culturally significant contributions of indie game developers.
Though there are small explanations on each game and what makes it so great, the exhibit allows the games to speak for themselves.
For example, instead of reading about Flo’s hectic schedule in “Diner Dash,” guests can make her serve virtual patrons themselves.
While the typical demographic of video game players can range from young girls building homes in “Animal Crossing” to a dorm full of young adults shooting their way through the old Soviet Union in “Call of Duty,” the two groups rarely find themselves playing with one another.
At the “Indie Essentials” exhibit, people of all ages became enraptured in the strategy, graphics and fun each game provides.
Even older couples without children found themselves whoopping and hollering when they made it to the next level of “Minecraft” — a crowd favorite among teenage boys and men alike.
There was a sense of competitiveness in the multiplayer games but it was all in good fun with high-fives and words of encouragement being exchanged all around when the game was over.
“Yes, I finally did it,” one boy exclaimed as his fingers nimbly darted about on “Killer Queen Arcade.” “I’m finally going to win!”