Friday, March 1, 2013

...but is it art? MoMA thinks so as it opens Video Games exhibit

Towards the end of last year, New York's Museum of Modern Art created a good bit of controversy when it announced that it planned to open an exhibit celebrating video games as art.  After much hand-wringing and sniping by some seriously affectacious artistes, the exhibit opened as scheduled today, March 1st, in the Philip Johnson Galleries.

The exhibit will feature initially feature a selection of 14 game, but the museum's senior curator of the department of architecture and design Paola Antonelli says it may expand to include representatives of popular franchises like The Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Brothers.  All told, the museum expects to add "about 40" games to its collection.

So, what can intrepid gamers expect to see this weekend if they travel into New York?  The complete list of games currently on display in the exhibit is as follows:

  • Pac-Man
  • Tetris
  • Another World
  • Myst
  • SimCity 2000
  • vib-ribbon
  • The Sims
  • Katamari Damacy
  • EVE Online
  • Dwarf Fortress
  • Portal
  • flOw
  • Passage
  • Canabalt

The main criteria for the collection is that all games need to have been released between 1980 and 2009 (sorry, Pong) so don't expect to see Skyrim in there any time soon.

No matter what your feelings on serious art may be, it's absolutely wonderful to see MoMA recognizing video games as a valid medium to be curated.  This shows a progressive level of understanding and appreciation that one doesn't always find in the art world.  Siskel's second fiddle Roger Ebert, for example, once famously declared that video games can never be art (linkbaiting at his age?  Really?)

MoMA's exhibit serves as a brilliant rejoinder to old-guard snobs like Ebert and shows that at least some people have recognized that games and the games industry are two of the driving creative forces in the world today.