In the 3DS’s virtual Louvre, the tour guide is the art

Once upon a time in the late aughts, Nintendo had a dream that the DS would be used for any number of non-gaming extracurricular activities: ordering beers at Seattle Mariner home games, touring feudal rock gardens in Osaka; and ogling the Venus de Milo at the Louvre. 

The idea with the Louvre in particular is that instead of an audio tour, Nintendo supplies an audio-video tour, with a map, in 3D. The app gives you access to artworks in ways you wouldn’t otherwise have, such as viewing sculptures from overhead, or zooming in on the hairline cracks and fine textures of the Mona Lisa. 

This high-tech development in the art world was news last year, but now Nintendo has made the virtual tour available to any lover of art on the 3DS eShop. This is curious as it puts traditional art in the arena with the emergence of purely digital exhibits, such as “Plastic, Yet Still In-Between” by Andrew Benson, which uses the WASD keys to navigate.

This raises a thorny question. Certainly in digital exhibits navigation is a part of the experience. And we know from playing games that it’s all about the interaction. With the virtual Louvre, the art is just representations of famous paintings, but could the tour guide itself be the art? Okay, just forget that wormhole and go play the thing already.