Lonely Planet Writer

A new gallery in Chicago is dedicated to the artistic merit of the video game

If you’re among the many who consider video games to be entertainment for children (or childish adults), a new museum in Chicago is ready to challenge your preconceptions. The Video Game Art (VGA) Gallery, opening in the Bloomingdale Arts Building on 11 August, is making a strong case for the artistic merit of video games.

The new VGA Gallery in Chicago.
The new VGA Gallery in Chicago. Image by Ohn Ho and VGA Gallery

“The broader public just knows the shoot-’em-ups like Call of Duty and mobile phone games like Candy Crush, but we’re hoping to change the narrative and help people learn about games that . . . have exceptional personal narratives and self-expression’, says executive director Jonathan Kinkley.

Image from the upcoming exhibit of work from Cuba's first independent game Savior.
Image from the upcoming exhibit of work from Cuba’s first independent game Savior. Image by Savior developers Josuhe Pagliery, Johann Armenteros and VGA Gallery

The VGA Gallery is the first Chicago museum devoted to video games and new media. The cozy space will host rotating exhibitions, allowing visitors to play games and view video-game art. They can also shop for posters, prints and the VGA Reader, an annual journal that highlights games and other new media art forms.

The gallery’s inaugural exhibition will feature Savior, the first Cuban video game to have a wide release, from designers Josuhe Pagliery and Johann Armenteros. With gothic-inspired artwork and existential themes, Savior is no Dr. Mario: the VGA Gallery says the game ‘challenges cultural expectations, as well as formal understanding of games’.

An image from the game Savior which is the first exhibition at the VGA gallery
An image from the game Savior which is the first exhibition at the VGA gallery Image by Savior developers Josuhe Pagliery, Johann Armenteros and VGA Gallery

Evans and Kinkley met as art students at UIC and founded VGA Gallery, a non-profit, in 2013. They soon began hosting pop-up exhibitions of video games and new media around the city, and became known for featuring under-the-radar games by talented local designers as well as international developers. Thanks to their art backgrounds and careers – Evans teaches game development, coding and new media at Northwestern, and Kinkley works for the Art Institute of Chicago – Evans and Kinkley are uniquely positioned to argue for the skill and artistry of game designers, developers and artists. ‘We like to champion great games — games we think are important’, Kinkley says.

Cuban video game Savior takes centre-stage at the new VGA Gallery.
Cuban video game Savior takes centre-stage at the new VGA Gallery. Image by Savior developers Josuhe Pagliery, Johann Armenteros and VGA Gallery

The VGA Gallery will host a grand opening on Friday, 11 August, from 5-8pm. Regular hours are 5-8pm on Wednesday and noon-5pm on Sunday.