Bucket List Road: Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center

7 minutes
After a decade at Oklahoma Today, Editor-in-chief Nathan Gunter is filling in the spots he's missed with his series, Bucket List Road.

I’m back in the office after an unexpected five-day weekend, last week’s snow having proven too much for even our four-wheel-drive state. But that’s fine with me: If you’ve got plenty of snacks, hot running water (don’t forget to drip those pipes!), books, the Internet, and some blankets, what’s a snow day or two? Or three?

While I did have some wonderful quality reading time—and was, for some reason, crazy productive with work stuff—I did spend more than my fair share of the past five days engaged on one of my favorite new and old pursuits: video games (that’s the old part), specifically the Chinese iOS title Genshin Impact (the new).

"Genshin Impact"

"Genshin Impact"

I discovered this game not long after its release because of another video game I love—The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Genshin was being mocked online as a Breath of the Wild ripoff, which in many ways, it is. And I began playing it with a smirk—who could possibly improve on Nintendo’s masterpiece? But like any good game, Genshin drew me in, and now, I rarely go two consecutive hours without thinking about it: about what daily commissions are coming up, about whose artifacts I’m grinding to upgrade, about how if I had one wish, it’d be that I could live inside my Serenitea Pot—the game’s kind-of homage to Stardew Valley.

"Serenitea Pot" is "Genshin Impact"'s game within a game.

"Serenitea Pot" is "Genshin Impact"'s game within a game.

This is nothing new for me, of course. Though I grew up with good, responsible parents who taught me to fish, golf, camp, and otherwise enjoy the outdoors, I was a child of the 1980s, and the Nintendo Entertainment System was my first true love. I had a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine from second through ninth grade, and when I wasn’t able to be in front of my console—for instance, when I was at school—I was in my sketchbook, drawing maps, weapons, characters, logos, and any other NES-related thing that caught my fancy. When my friends and I played pretend, we play-acted as Nintendo characters as often as we did anything else (my favorite was and always will be Link from the Legend of Zelda franchise).

And I still play all those old games through the power of emulation and my hacker husband who makes it all possible. To this day, I’m astonished at how good some of those old Nintendo games were—how challenging, how inventive, how off-the-wall bizarre and random. I mean, sure! I’m a plumber who has an unrequited crush on a princess who keeps getting kidnapped by a dinosaur, and my favorite foods are mushrooms and flowers. Sounds completely normal to me: Press Start!

If this sounds something like your childhood as well (and since a 2018 study found there were 166 million gamers in the country, I’m betting it does), may I stress that you must visit Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center in Oklahoma City between now and February 21, which is when the magnificent Open World exhibit closes. An entire exhibition based on and inspired by video games of all generations, this exhibit encompasses a wider variety of media than I really knew existed and is steeped in both nostalgia and forward-thinking artistic sensibility for an experience of art unlike any other I’ve seen. For example, there are the über-nostalgic pencil drawings of New York artist Butt Johnson:

There are the repurposed arcade signs of Oliver Payne:

There are the video creations of Tabor Robak:

And even some incredible gaming-inspired quilts:

And this amazing use of the game The Sims as a medium by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, artist Angela Washko, who used the life-simulator game to place a female sim inside a house with no exits and several male sims outside. She’s unable to get out; they’re unable to get in, and when Washko sets the game on Free Will mode—meaning the in-game characters are “free” (controlled by the computer) to behave at random—the male sims protest and begin to die, while the female sim cries out in loneliness while her home burns and her pets starve. The whole thing is a powerful rumination on the spaces in our lives and how we—erroneously, usually—define those spaces as “masculine” or “feminine” to the exclusion of other possibilities.

Open World’s name is inspired by this kind of playful and creative thinking—in video game parlance, the term open world means an environment the player is free to explore with few if any boundaries. They’re my favorite kind of games—those where you’re left to make sense, make story, make progress without scrolling levels or ponderous exposition pushing you forward. That spirit of freedom, creativity, and endless possibility is on display in Open World, and before it closes on February 21, you need to go see it.

Just remember:

Get There
Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, 11 NW 11th St Oklahoma City, OK 73103 or TravelOK.com
Written By
Nathan Gunter

Nate is an enthusiastic runner and cyclist and frequently can be seen making his way by foot or pedal through Oklahoma City streets. When not working, Nate is reading, writing, watching movies, playing video games, working in his garden, attending concerts, or taking off on road trips.

Nathan Gunter
Previous Blog

"Weekly Events Calendar, February 7-13, 2022"

Next Blog

"Weekly Events Calendar, February 14-20, 2022"

You May Like

Weekly Events Calendar, March 20-26, 2023

Basketball showmanship, jousting acumen, and more are making this week in Oklahoma too much fun to miss.

Basketball showmanship, jousting acumen, and more are making this week in Oklahoma too much fun to miss.

By Greg Elwell | 5 min read Read BLOG

An Oklahoma Honey-and-the-Kids-Moon

Web Editor Greg Elwell is about to get hitched and, with two kids in tow, he's thinking of a honeymoon for the whole family.

Web Editor Greg Elwell is about to get hitched and, with two kids in tow, he's thinking of a honeymoon for the whole family.

By Greg Elwell | 8 min read Read BLOG