Posted December 3, 2012 by Peter in News

Game design highlighted with collection at Museum of Modern Art

Game design highlighted with collection at Museum of Modern Art
Game design highlighted with collection at Museum of Modern Art

The debate over games as art flares up every few years – whether the design and creative process qualifies them, or if the end result is too broad, too commercial, or too much in the hands of the players to allow the designers’ intentions to show through. In a move likely to stir up the debate once again, New York’s Museum of Modern Art last week announced the addition of 14 games to their collection.

The titles chosen are an eclectic mix including undisputed classics like Pac-Man and Tetris as well as line-drawn music/rhythm game Vib-Ribbon, space trading MMO Eve Online and the freeware legend that is Dwarf Fortress. However they are not being entered into the museum as art, but under design and architecture, and assessed with criteria more closely associated with physical pieces.

By not taking the games based on sales or pure aesthetics, elements such as the interaction with the player or how well it uses the time played, or even their use of source code are examined. Comparing code as a metaphorical material that creates a game to physical building materials, the museum explains “the programming language takes the place of the wood or plastics, and the quality of the interaction translates in the digital world what the synthesis of form and function represent in the physical one.”

The museum is looking to archive the games as closely to the original versions as possible, by acquiring the titles on their original medium and the systems they were released on, as well as the sources codes if possible.

Intended as the starting selection for a larger collection of around 40 titles that may include Pong, Street Fighter 2, Mario 64 and Minecraft, the museum is planning an exhibition of the current titles in 2013. In fitting with the subject matter, these will include hands on opportunities to play the games themselves or tutorial versions, though in some cases may instead be rolling demos if playing isn’t a possibility.

MoMA’s initial list of 14 titles – which are sure to be disputed on some level by almost every gamer who sees them – are as follows:

  1. Pac-Man (1980)
  2. Tetris (1984)
  3. Another World (1991)
  4. Myst (1993)
  5. SimCity 2000 (1994)
  6. Vib-Ribbon (1999)
  7. The Sims (2000)
  8. Katamari Damacy (2004)
  9. EVE Online (2003)
  10. Dwarf Fortress (2006)
  11. Portal (2007)
  12. flOw (2006)
  13. Passage (2008)
  14. Canabalt (2009)


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.