A number of video games were selected by the Museum of Modern Art, located in New York City, as part of its permanent collection. These games were chosen by the Museum of Modern Art in order to showcase design elements within them. Fourteen initial games were announced in November 2012, with plans to expand the collection to up to forty games over time, as the museum is able to acquire the display rights for them. Six more games were added to the collection in June 2013, as well a game console.
Curated by Paola Antonelli, the collection was included in the exhibition Applied Design in the Philip Johnson Architecture and Design Galleries. In these galleries, around a hundred objects that represent contemporary design were displayed. Most games in the collection are playable on some level and all are displayed in a manner to minimize the influence of nostalgia.
The exhibition stirred up controversy, as video games are not commonly considered art among critics and therefore might not have a place in an art gallery. However, the collection is modeled after Philip Johnson’s 1934 exhibition "Machine Art," in which pieces of machinery such as propeller blades were displayed in a minimalist fashion to lay focus on their mechanical design. This set-up would create a "strange distance, this shock, that made people realize how gorgeous formally, and also important functionally, design pieces were," which, according to the exhibit's curator Paola Antonelli, is the desired effect of the exhibition. In order to minimize factors such as nostalgia, the games are displayed in a minimalist fashion where only a screen and controlling-device are visible on an otherwise blank wall.
At least one other video game, namely Katamari Damacy, has been displayed in MoMA's design galleries before. The exhibition is part of a movement to include forms beyond traditional media that the Museum of Modern Art began in 2006, starting with digital fonts and later moving on to video games. MoMA has taken cautious care of traffic flow, as this had proved to be an "interesting" challenge. Games that are likely to be heavily played, such as Pac-Man, have been placed near entrances and exits to assure a constant flow from these games, while games that would require a larger amount of time to play have had a demo version developed for them, so that visitors can beat those and move on.
Though the MoMA is mainly interested in acquiring a game's hardware and interface, the proprietary source code is considered the most valued. According to Antonelli, "when we cannot acquire the code, we acquire simulations, emulations, the cartridge, the hardware. But what we're interested in showing is the interaction by itself."
The collection leans towards the classic era of arcade machines and 8-bit consoles as, during this era, "a small number of visionaries laid the groundwork for where we are now." According to Paul Galloway, many early, "seemingly simple games remain as vital and compelling today as they were" during the 1970s and 80s. Ralph H. Baer's Magnavox Odyssey console was added as it was considered both "a masterpiece of engineering and industrial design" as well as highly important during the birth of the video game industry.
The wave indicates when a game was added to the collection; wave 1 was included on November 29, 2012, and wave 2 was included on June 23, 2013. Street Fighter II was added in November, 2013, and Snake was added in October, 2015.
|Another World||Delphine Software International||Various||1991||1|||
|Dwarf Fortress||Tarn Adams||PC||2006||Each time a new version of Dwarf Fortress is made available, MoMA instantly downloads and archives the version in its secure servers. The complex game is available to visitors as a "cinematic trailer".||1|||
|Eve Online||CCP Games||PC||2003||The massively multiplayer online video game is installed as a "day in the universe" of the game. Additionally, MoMA offers data of the virtual economy that has developed within Eve Online since its release in 2003 via a video presentation.||1|||
|Katamari Damacy||Namco||PlayStation 2||2004||Originally part of MoMA's "Century of the Child: Growing by Design" exhibit.||1|||
|Magnavox Odyssey||Ralph Baer||1972||First generation home video game console||2|||
|Myst||Cyan Worlds||Various||1993||Available only as a video demonstration||1|||
|SimCity 2000||Maxis||Various||1994||Due to the game's complexity, a visual demo is prepared, and screenshots of the game are displayed on a floor-to-ceiling, multi-column mural.||1|||
|The Sims||Maxis||Various||2000||Available only as a video demonstration||1|||
|Street Fighter II||Capcom||Arcade||1991||3|
|Tetris||Alexey Pajitnov||Various||1984||MoMA's copy of Tetris runs on an Apple computer mimicking the specific Soviet-era computer it was designed for in 1984.||1|||
|Yars' Revenge||Atari||Atari 2600||1982||2|||
- List of works in the Museum of Modern Art
- List of video games considered the best
- Video games as an art form
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