When Toru Iwatani first came up with the original concept for a more universally enjoyable video game which he originally called Puck-Man in 1980, he likely didn’t suspect that it would one day be inducted into the MoMA alongside some of the legendary games that followed it. In attempting to create groundbreaking forms of interactive entertainment, Iwatani and the makers of Tetris, Myst, Katamari Damacy, The Sims, and nine other games inadvertently created what is now considered to be art.
Things have changed a bit since the days when game-makers only aimed to make the most addictive mass-appeal experience they could muster, and the new environment of game developers is home to people like Mark Essen and Jason Rohrer, who have taken the entertainment paradigm and used it to create contemplative games capable of invoking an emotional reaction.
The induction of these initial 14 games into MoMA, as well as the 40 that the museum aspires to add to the collection, signals a shift in thinking when it comes to the nature of interactive design. The individual creativity that has risen in that realm, made possible by the ubiquity of development tools, has fostered some truly evocative experiences created with artistic intentions in mind. Senior curator of MoMA’s architecture and design department Paola Antonelli, who is responsible for bringing in this acquisition, addresses this core question:
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.
Judging games based on the criteria of behavior, aesthetics, space, and time, Antonelli procured these first 14 in their original formats. Some of the shorter games will be available to play in full within the initial exhibition, while others that are harder to make fully playable within a museum setting will simply be demonstrated.
The initial group of games will open in MoMA’s Philip Johnson Galleries in March of 2013.
Check out a full list of the games and a Antonelli’s detailed explanation of the thinking behind this exhibition here.