Are video games art? The most influential museum of modern art in the world, Manhattan's MoMA, believes they sure are. The museum has acquired a selection of 14 video games for a new category of artworks in its extensive collection.
MoMa is planning to get hold of 40 more games in the near future.
This initial group, to be installed in the Museum’s Philip Johnson Galleries in spring, features the two icons of the 1980s popular culture, Pac-Man and Tetris, as well as such immensely popular games as Another World, once considered highly-innovative in its use of cinematic effects, Myst, SimCity 2000, The Sims, Katamari Damacy, EVE Online, Portal, flOw, Passage, Canabalt and the extremely challenging Dwarf Fortress, which prompted its fans to create the slogan "Losing is fun."
"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," the museum’s website explained.
The acquisition allows the Museum to "study, preserve, and exhibit video games" as part of its Architecture and Design collection.
"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," MoMa added.
Over the next few years, the museum is set to complete its initial selection with one of the earliest-known digital computer games, Spacewar!; an assortment of games for the Magnavox Odyssey console; one of the first video games to reach mainstream popularity, Pong; one of the earliest shooting games Space Invaders; Asteroids, one of the most popular and influential games of the Golden Age of Arcade Games, selling 70,000 arcade cabinets; as well as Zork, Tempest, Donkey Kong, Yars’ Revenge, M.U.L.E., Core War, Marble Madness, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, NetHack, Street Fighter II, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario 64, Grim Fandango, Animal Crossing and Minecraft.
If the duration of the game is short enough, it could be made playable in its entirety at the museum, as was the case in MoMA’s Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects exhibition, when visitors had a chance to play Passage.
For games that take longer to play but require interaction for full appreciation, an interactive demonstration in which the game can be played for a limited amount of time will be available.
MoMa noted that since some of the games that have been acquired, such as Dwarf Fortress and EVE Online, take years and millions of people to manifest fully, the museum will work with players and designers to create guided tours of these alternate worlds, to provide visitors with a chance to appreciate the extent of the gameplay.