MoMA Acquires 14 Video Games, and This is Just the Start

December 03, 2012

You know where we stand on this issue, as we have been bringing video games and the architects behind them into the magazine in recent years, so we applaud the move by the MoMA Architecture and Design curators acquiring 14 video game titles, with more to come. The first grouping will be on display Museum’s Philip Johnson Galleries in March 2013. We have always thought the argument of "are video games art?" to be quite ludicrous, as some of the great artistic talent of the past 20 years have been the masterminds to the visual experiences of the most famed games in the world. 

The first batch consists of:

• 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)



Statement from MoMA's Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design:


Over the next few years, we would like to complete this initial selection with Spacewar! (1962), an assortment of games for the 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.