zkm_gameplay. the next level
A comic figure with blue trousers, a white shirt and pink hair runs into a turquoise coloured picture.
Sat, September 29, 2022 – Permanent exhibition

»zkm_gameplay. the next level« is the computer game platform of ZKM. The exhibition invites visitors to engage in informative and creative exchange – and, of course, to play games. The exhibition is aimed at gamers of all ages, but also at visitors who have little experience with computer games.


Medium of the digital society

The fact that computer games have developed into a leading medium is no longer a daring thesis. The social and aesthetic significance of the interactive and multimedia medium can no longer be overlooked. The computer game has freed itself from its origins as a laboratory experiment and toy and has become "the" medium of digital society, somewhere between pop culture, entertainment and art. 

With the opening of the exhibition »The World of Games« in the fall of 1997, the ZKM was one of the first art institutions worldwide to give video game culture a permanent public platform in an art context. Since then, the ZKM has repeatedly reshaped the presentation of games in a series of different exhibitions.


Currently on: Until July 28th 2024, »level 5: in the spotlight« is hosting a special exhibition on the topic of games and architecture:

Playful Architectures!

Level & Games of the Exhibition

Through the exhibition in five steps

The gaming platform is divided into five themes: 1. the beginnings of computer game culture; 2. games that tell stories in a special way; 3. games that experiment with new interfaces, 4. games that take up social and political topics; and 5. a look at current developments and playful experiments.

Here you will find an overview and a selection of the presented works:

level 1: retro
In section of »level 1: retro«, the origins, milestones and developments of the medium from the 1970s to the 1990s are presented. For example, visitors can play »Super Mario« at historical arcades and consoles. 

level 2: modern narratives
The section of »level 2: modern narratives« is dedicated to the unique narrative possibilities of computer games – from the interactive thermal paper stories of »Choosatron« to the surreal dream worlds of Bill Viola's »The Night Journey«. 

level 3: aesthetic & creative games
Exceptional audiovisual presentations and surprising game mechanics await the visitors in the section of »level 3: aesthetic & creative games«: For example, you can explore the almost infinite universe of »No Man Sky« or let haptic fireworks of light from »Wobble Garden« stimulate your synapses. 

level 4: political games
Visitors to the section of »level 4: political games« learn how computer games can playfully communicate political processes and their background. For example, political differences of opinion can be clarified together at the »Democracy Machine«. In addition, works from the Goethe-Institut's worldwide »Art Game Jam« are presented in this section.

level 5: in the spotlight
The section of »level 5: in the spotlight« provides regular information on current debates and discourses on game studies, game culture and student projects. 

Indie Games 

The approximately 50 works of the playsite are so-called indie games: they mainly come from artists and small independent game studios. The artistic handling of the medium, which does not always follow a classical game design, is in the foreground. In the interactive installations of the exhibition, the real space becomes part of the virtual game world and playing becomes a collaborative experience with which the creative possibilities of the medium of computer games are redefined.

Platform for creativity

The exhibition is supplemented by an extensive program, which especially invites computer game developers to use the exhibition as a platform for mutual exchange and events. The ZKM also offers numerous participatory mediation formats for everyone, ranging from the creation of their own Let's Play videos to school class tours and coding workshops.

Exhibition view »zkm_gameplay. the next level«
Organization / Institution
ZKM | Center for Art and Media

Accompanying program

Supported by

Supported by