Are Video Games Art? MoMA Answers with New Exhibit

It’s the question everyone’s asking nowadays: can video games be considered art? Should they be? While it’s been over two years since film-critic Roger Ebert blew up the debate with his now-famous commentary, the fight rages on. This time, it’s New York’s Museum of Modern Art that’s taking a side.

In the past, curators and critics alike have been hesitant to put a label on gaming. Pundits of established artistic disciplines were the worst offenders, often heard dismissing the industry in favor of their own respective fields. Ebert’s notorious quote that “video games can never be art” unleashed what has been referred to as a “firestorm” of antithetical responses from artists and gamers the world over. Despite the ongoing argument over the medium’s creative merit, it seems that some organizations are willing to make a statement.

Are Video Games Art? MoMA Answers with New Exhibit

A facade at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art

MoMA has acquired 14 game-based works and will open up a new exhibit in March 2013. According to officials, the collection will focus on games produced in the past thirty years and will emphasize works by American designers. This is the first time that video games have been on display at the museum, but it follows in the footsteps of other art institutions.

Interested in what games will be included in the museum’s collection? The full list is available here, and includes both classics and modern games. Highlights include Tetris, Pac-Man, Myst, The Sims, Katamari Damacy, and Portal. The site also notes the museum’s wish to complete their initial gathering with some other notable titles, including Space Invaders, Asteroids, Snake, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario 64, and Minecraft, among others.

Are Video Games Art? MoMA Answers with New Exhibit

Katamari Damacy (2004)

For all the traditionalists out there, MoMA released a public statement documenting the reasoning behind their decision. For the full statement, check out the museum’s website, which builds a strong argument for the inclusion of said media.

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.

What do you think? Will other institutions start building their own collections? Or is gaming doomed to live forever under the sole moniker of ‘entertainment?’ Feel free to sound off in the comments.

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