Astoria, Queens, played a vital role in early motion picture production, but video games have taken over the neighborhood’s Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Ave., Astoria, N.Y., 718.784.0077) this month. The institution’s new exhibition—Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games (through March 2, 2014)—features some of the most innovative games created by independent designers and developers since 2002. The museum invites visitors to an appropriately dim room where they can try their hands at 25 interactive games for the Playstation 2 & 3, PC, iOS or Wii U. I was pleasantly surprised to see Diner Dash, an insanely addictive PC game that popularized the time management genre, included in the exhibition, along with Flower, a beautiful, meditative experience for the PS3 that isn’t really a game at all.
The exhibition also highlights more profound games, including Passage, a five-minute program in which players guide an avatar through his/her entire life, and Today I Die, an interactive poem that involves saving a girl drowning in depression. Not only does the hands-on exhibition add credibility to the idea that video games are a form of art (a controversial subject in the entertainment industry), it also exposes visitors to new games for their smartphones. Once you try out World of Goo, a fun puzzle game with engaging physics, your thumbs will scoff at the tiresome standbys that everyone else seems to be playing. Game on!