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Are video games art? The Museum of Modern Art says yes with new gallery

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Posted by: Andrew Clouther

In this long debate over whether video games are art or not, the Museum of Modern Art has stepped forward and said “they sure are.”  The New York museum has backed their words with fourteen art pieces of video games ranging from the years 1980 to 2009 in a brand new category of artworks.  These works will be in the Museum’s Philip Johnson galleries in March 2013. 

These sections are as follows:

 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)
• Canabalt (2009)

These first fourteen artworks are only the beginning too, the MoMa already has plans to add more video games to this new collection.  These new additions include 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).

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. The games are selected 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. 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. In order to develop an even stronger curatorial stance, over the past year and a half we have sought the advice of scholars, digital conservation and legal experts, historians, and critics, all of whom helped us refine not only the criteria and the wish list, but also the issues of acquisition, display, and conservation of digital artifacts that are made even more complex by the games’ interactive nature. This acquisition allows the Museum to study, preserve, and exhibit video games as part of its Architecture and Design collection.

Of course I personally believe video games are art. I would have trouble believing anyone who has played through Journey would possibly disagree.  The mere fact that Chrono Trigger is on that list makes me feel all sorts of warm and funny inside.  Next time I’m New York I guarantee I’ll be stopping by the MoMa to check this out.  Video games are becoming more worldly acceptable as art, relive GameZone’s adventure at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, The Art of Video Games exhibit

[MoMa]    

Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ

Tags: Museum of Modern Art, MoMa, video games, New York, Museum’s Philip Johnson, art

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