Games ARE art, the museum says so

1 min read

The Museum of Modern Art has so far acquired 21 video games of the 40 games they are striving for to be installed in a new exhibit: Applied Design.  You may be surprised by which games were selected so far, but I doubt many people would argue the intrinsic artistic merits.

In chronological order, the games are:

  • Magnavox Odyssey (1972)
  • Pong (1972)
  • Space Invaders (1978)
  • Asteroids (1979)
  • Pac-Man (1980)
  • Tempest (1981)
  • Yar’s Revenge (1982)
  • 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)
  • Minecraft (2011)

If you are wondering about the criteria for selection, the MoMA explains:

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.

I could certainly agree with these, even if many are very boxy – I mean, from Tetris through till Minecraft!  But truly, these are definitely works of art and I’m very curious which other games the MoMa is pursuing.  Geez, I remember when I first played Myst – I was completely lost, confused and enthralled.  This gives me yet another reason to get back to New York City for a visit!

Last Updated: July 2, 2013

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let's get on with it!

  • Ultimo_Cleric N7

    Eve Online. Win

    • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

      I know right! Wooot!

    • RinceWind


  • OVG

    So anything RETRO is art. Not much interaction design going on at the moment.

    • RinceWind

      Another World man! Those slugs were your best friend…

  • Hammersteyn

    I’d pick the Atari 2600 above the Magnavox

  • Trevor Davies

    Not a single Sierra quest?

  • Sir Twakkus

    Totally agree, some games are more than just another form of entertainment. Really glad gaming in general is getting the recognition it deserves.
    I watched the TED talk on this subject and what really amazed me was that in Eve online, actual government policies was tested by a senator of the USA, who was an avid Eve player.

    • RinceWind

      Yeah, he was sadly killed last year in the storming of the US Embassy in Libya. Do you have the name of the TED talk you mentioned?

      • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

        I remember that story yeah. Very sad story that 🙁

        • RinceWind

          Yeah man. Made me very angry and sad.

      • Sir Twakkus

        Ja she mentioned it in the talk. They renamed one of the constellations or something after him to honour him. Here you go:

        • RinceWind

          Thanks man. And a damn loss to the world. So sick of this human fighting over what they believe is to be true bullshit. sigh.

  • RinceWind

    Another world, EVE online YES!

  • Admiral Chief Groot Wors


    Hehehehe, loving it!

  • Mossel

    Simcity 2000 ftw!

  • Matthew Holliday

    The fact that art now has to meet a certain criteria, in order to be considered, is sad.
    necessary, but sad.

    although, by these criteria, Toribash should be accepted and I should be dubbed a Digital Picasso.

    This game is so underrated its scary
    assuming no one remembers this game so:

  • I can’t agree more, at the end of the day, I say, it does not matter what game or genre it is, it is art. Nowhere else will you see so many artists coming together to make one piece. Programmers, concept artists, level designers, animators, modelers all of them form one artwork! Love it!

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