New York's MoMA plans video game exhibition

While we’re not about to touch on the “Games as art” debate, a surprising challenger has entered the ring: New York’s prestigious Museum of Modern Art. And the institution is on the gaming side, adding 14 games to its on-going collection, with the promise of more to follow.

Tetris. 1984. Alexey Pajitnov

Tetris. 1984. Alexey Pajitnov

These 14 games are a “seedbed” for a wishlist of around 40 titles the museum hopes to acquire in the near future. It is also potentially the start of a new category of artworks for MoMA, which will continue to grow in coming years.

Here’s the full list of games that have made the cut so far:

  • Pac-Man (1980)
  • Tetris (1984)
  • Another World (1991)
  • Myst (1993)
  • SimCity 2000 (1994)
  • vib-ribbon (1999)
  • The Sims (2000)
  • Katamari Damacy (2004)
  • EVE Online (2003)
  • Dwarf Fortress (2003)
  • flOw (2006)
  • Portal (2007)
  • Passage (2008)
  • Canabalt (2009)

MoMA explains that, “over the next few years”, the exhibition will grow to also feature Spacewar! (1962), an assortment of games for the Magnavox Odyssey console (1972), Pong (1972), Snake (originally designed in the 1970s; Nokia phone version dates from 1997), Space Invaders (1978), Asteroids (1979), Zork (1979), Tempest (1981), Donkey Kong (1981), Yars’ Revenge (1982), M.U.L.E. (1983), Core War (1984), Marble Madness (1984), Super Mario Bros. (1985), The Legend of Zelda (1986), NetHack (1987), Street Fighter II (1991), Chrono Trigger (1995), Super Mario 64 (1996), Grim Fandango (1998), Animal Crossing (2001), and Minecraft (2011).

As with most things “arty”, the list itself is intriguing, with a unusual blend of the expected, classic mainstream releases, a handful of cult indies, and one or two that – while being no less deserving – are somewhat of a surprise.

Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA elaborates on the Museum’s website:

As with all other design objects in MoMA’s collection, from posters to chairs to cars to fonts, curators seek a combination of historical and cultural relevance, aesthetic expression, functional and structural soundness, innovative approaches to technology and behavior, and a successful synthesis of materials and techniques in achieving the goal set by the initial program. This is as true for a stool or a helicopter as it is for an interface or a video game, in which the programming language takes the place of the wood or plastics, and the quality of the interaction translates in the digital world what the synthesis of form and function represent in the physical one. Because of the tight filter we apply to any category of objects in MoMA’s collection, our selection does not include some immensely popular video games that might have seemed like no-brainers to video game historians.

The initial 14 games will be on display at MoMA’s Philip Johnson galleries starting March 2013.

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