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Museum of Modern Art launches videogames collection

Categories: Science & Technology

mi-480-moma-anotherworld.jpgAn image of Another World, one of the games in the Museum of Modern Art's videogame installation. (photo from

Are video games art? That question has sparked heated debates among those within the gaming sphere and the art world for the better part of the decade.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York has weighed in by establishing a collection dedicated to showcasing the best in videogame design and aesthetics.

MoMA has announced its initial list of 14 games to be shown at its Philip Johnson Galleries, beginning in March 2013.

The list includes Pac-Man (released in 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 (2006), Portal (2007), flOw (2006), Passage (2008) and Canabalt (2009).

The museum plans to expand the collection with other games including Spacewar! (1962), Super Mario Bros. (1985) and Minecraft (2011).

According to Paola Antonelli, senior curator at the Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA hopes to include all the games in the original format (including the first cartridges, discs and game consoles they appeared on) whenever possible, or use emulation software if it's unavailable.

 NAMCO's Pac-Man, released in 1980, is the oldest game in the initial collection. (photo from Setting itself apart from the Smithsonian's "The Art of Video Games" installation, MoMA focused its list of inductees on the merits of design ahead of a game's popularity or historical significance on the genre.

"Are video games art? They sure are, but they are also design, and a design approach is what we chose for this new foray into this universe," writes Antonelli.

"Our criteria, therefore, emphasize not only the visual quality and aesthetic experience of each game, but also the many other aspects--from the elegance of the code to the design of the player's behavior--that pertain to interaction design.

"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."

Antonelli continued by saying that depending on the nature of the game, each will be presented in a way that makes it accessible to the museum's audience. Passage, which takes roughly five minutes to play through to completion, will be shown basically as-is. But EVE Online, a massive multiplayer online game with more than 400,000 subscribers, will require an amended presentation.

The announcement has already attracted criticism and re-ignited the debate that Roger Ebert stoked back in a 2010 blog post titled "Video games can never be art."

"Art connoisseurs may raise their eyebrows because visitors will actually be able to play the games in the gallery," writes The Independent's Nick Clark in an article titled "Video games in an art gallery? MoMA allows Pac-Man into its hallowed halls."

"A work of art is one person's reaction to life. Any definition of art that robs it of this inner response by a human creator is a worthless definition," writes The Guardian's Jonathan Jones.
What do you think about MoMA's videogame installation? Are video games art? Which games do you think should be included in the installation, and why?

(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)

Tags: Arts & Entertainment, POV, Technology, videogames

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