WASHINGTON (AFP) - They’ve come a long way since the man who would be Mario set off to rescue Pauline from Donkey Kong and Pac-Man gobbled up as many dots as he could before the ghosts caught up with him.  But really, are video games art?

Absolutely, contends a major exhibition that opened Friday at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington that celebrates gaming’s rich creative side and the people behind a medium that’s still in full bloom.

“The Art of Video Games” spans the 40 years since video games moved from amusement arcades into homes around the world, evolving in leaps and bounds with ever-more-sophisticated graphics, interactivity and story-telling.

“While this exhibition is not the first exhibition that actually uses video games, it is the first I believe that actually looks at video games themselves as an art form,” curator Chris Melissinos told AFP.