Many people might not realize that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has its very own video game collection. The museum recently acquired 14 video games off of its 40-game wish list, which will soon contribute to a new category of artworks: Architecture and Design.
So far, MoMA’s game selection includes 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 (2006), Portal (2007), flOw (2006), Passage (2008),and Canabalt (2009).They will be installed in MoMA’s Philip Johnson Galleries this coming March.
The titles above were selected by MoMA “as outstanding examples of interaction design—a field that MoMA has already explored and collected extensively, and one of the most important and oft-discussed expressions of contemporary design creativity.” The games selected were judged based things such as their visual quality, aesthetic experience, and the design of the player’s behavior.
In collecting these games, MoMA says it will be able to preserve and exhibit them, as well as continue to study them. It hopes to acquire the remaining games on the “wish list” in the near future and add them to the collection as well. This includes the following: 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).
In the ongoing argument of whether or not video games should be considered art, MoMA finds
itself saying “yes.” But it also maintains that video games are also “design.” The central design traits that helped MoMA define which games to privilege over others included behavior, aesthetics, space, and time. The museum aims to collect the copies of the games in their original software format (cartridges, discs, etc.) and hardware (consoles or computers). The museum also plans on looking into preservation (protection from obsolete technology) and the creative process behind the code writing through interviews and notes from the original game designers.