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MoMA Adds Video Games to Its Collection (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
38 points by rpm4321 1575 days ago | hide | past | web | 36 comments | favorite

I went to their exhibit last year which featured Dwarf Fortress (as a mural) and Passage (playable)...there were a few other games too, including he PS3's Little Big Adventure...I think Katamari is actually on display as part of their Century of the Child exhibit right now


I hope the games are playable...what better way to cement the idea that gamess are art in the mind of kids who may see art initially as just paintings and Greek sculpture?

I love Dwarf Fortress, but I would not characterize it as "playable."

I tried playing Dwarf Fortress over and over. I really want to love the game, but the UI is just miserable.

Different keyboard shortcuts for different types of buildings, that really aren't all that different. No easy way to manage your dwarves, or get vital statistics. I still have no idea how to actually get the little guys to get out there and beat something with a sword. I couldn't figure out how to trade with the damn caravan until I googled for it.

Aren't there any people out there as monomaniacally dedicated to crafting good UIs as whats-his-face is dedicated to building this huge world simulator?

You pretty much need to follow the wiki in order to get started: http://dwarffortresswiki.org/index.php/DF2012:Quickstart_gui...

I agree with you that the default interface is pretty miserable, but it has it's own charm in some way. Dwarves become much more manageable with the DwarfTherapist app. It acts as a usable interface extension for me. http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=66525.0

Yeah, I followed the wiki, but I still ended up having to google around and keep a few browser windows open just to list the keyboard shortcuts.

And unfortunately, Therapist isn't available for mac, and I'm not willing to install a VM just to play it :/

Slate article has a little more info: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/11/29/moma_s_new_vi...

"As with their film collection, MoMA aims to obtain the games in their original format—as well as acquiring the source code."

It would be also necessary to collect old hardwares or emulators.

And in some cases old televisions. The NES light-gun, for example, only works with CRTs.

I know the Super Scope relies on CRT scanlines to operate, but I was fairly sure that the NES' gun should work on any display that can change fast enough to black out all the screen except the targets, which (IIRC) go white with striped lines; is that not correct?

No, the NES Zapper does both. It detects light level changes frame-to-frame as you describe, but it also uses the CRT beam timing to determine _where_ on the screen a target was hit.


Also, even if the NES Zapper worked only on luminosity deltas, it could work on other types of displays -- but the response time (lag) of the display would have to be frame-accurate in order to detect the hit in time before the software moves on. (Software could compensate for lag, of course, but actual NES games don't.)

Their selections show a lot of thoughtfulness, especially when it comes to negotiating the tricky balance between selecting for historical/cultural significance and selecting for artistic significance.

I never in a million years would have guessed they'd choose Vib Ribbon, but it totally deserves it.

I loved Vib Ribbon and I'm very glad to see it there too, it was groundbreaking at the time but never really gained any popularity and has long since been forgotten.

We have Vib Ribbon on display now at the MADE http://www.themade.org so come by and play it before it's changed out for another exhibit on December 17th.

I'd love to but I live in the UK!

Ahh, about time I think. I'm very excited to see these in MoMA, if only for the discussion that was lingering around finally being brought to the forefront. Videogames (and now computer programs) are an art form. Some certainly deserve getting discussed and becoming part of a dialogue that treats them as such before diving in critically. Maybe it opens up entirely new dialogues for when new-release games come out.

As an artist, and a person who really appreciates the context of Art History as it relates to war/political history, this is good news. Video games are a cultural phenomenon that deserve to be in the art discussion, similar to how it took a while for hip hop to earn merit in the music discussion, even though its proponents knew it was art from the get-go.

The creator of one of the exhibited games, Katamari Damacy, went there. You can read about it (in English) on his blog.


What's with the "word-break: break-all" in the CSS? It's really weird to wrap English text that way; and removing that doesn't seem to affect how the Japanese text is wrapped.

For those of you in the valley, the MADE is in Oakland http://www.themade.org

It is, to my knowledge, the only dedicated videogame museum in America. This MOMA thing was interesting because we've been designing an exhibit about visual artistry in gaming, and we're going to be showing some of the same games as the MOMA, all playable.

It was reassuring to see the MOMA picked some of the same games we did, because it proved to us that we were at least as competent as MOMA. It's been a difficult road to build this museum, and we were excited to see we weren't going in the wrong direction.

Our visual arts exhibit, Games you can Frame will be on display starting December 17, and at GDC next year.

How nice it was to see Dwarf Fortress on that list!

DF, Another World, and NetHack were three pleasant surprises out of that list (though I might have preferred Rogue or DCSS in place of NetHack, depending on what their focus is).

Then again, in increasing order of bafflement: Canabalt (fun and beautiful, but not sure if it's world-class-museum-quality), Animal Crossing, and Passage (what the hell??).

I love Passage. It really is a game as a piece of art, even if it is not fun by traditional gaming standards. But I've seen few games so effectively show how the viewer's interactivity can add a whole new, thoughtful dimension to experiencing art.

You're right, though my objection is mainly that I don't consider it a "game" if it isn't actually fun. :) I could call it "interactive art" instead, but now we're just arguing semantics...

Your comment brought to mind how immature a stage that games as art are...nearly every game on that list is a critical rave, with possibly the exception of Passage. They may not all be popular, such as DF, but they are good at serving their niche.

If you go to the MoMA today, you'll see at least three or four "paintings" which are basically blank. There's even an entire wall devoted to the absence of any art...more of a made-you-look kind of thing...which was even less than the entire wall I once saw devoted to a yogurt cup...

So when video games that are e equivalent of a "blank wall" show up, then games will have definitely broken into the art scene.

And no, ET doesn't count because it wasn't intended to be a steaming pile of shot...allegedly...

I think there's an important insight hiding here. Art-world folk are perhaps overeager to shoehorn games into their definition of "art" (which is naturally rather nebulous). Just because a piece of software has NES-era graphics and allows you to use the keyboard to move a sprite around does not, to my mind, instantly qualify it as a game.

By a similar token, a box containing a blank white board and a single six-sided die does not instantly attain the status of a board game. And even though it is, perhaps, art--and fully something I'd expect to see in a board game exhibit in a museum of modern art--I wouldn't begrudge board game enthusiasts (of which I know many) if they grumbled at how such a "useless" exhibit was soaking up attention that could have been devoted to a game that was more substantial, more influential, and more representative of what board games really are.

But at the end of the day we're still just disagreeing over the definition of "art", which is perhaps the least constructive argument that has ever taken place in the history of humanity. :)

I think both Canabalt and Passage are great exponents of current schools of game making (if you can call the "indie game" and the "art game" a school). They show what people with similar interest to those that made Katamari Damacy are doing on much lower budgets.

Animal Crossing does seem odd though, specially considering The Sims is already there. Seems redundant at best.

My gripe about the inclusion of Canabalt isn't the game itself, it's that it's just too recent to determine if it will really withstand the test of time. Another World was a fun and beautiful game that barely got any press or sales at all, yet the fact that we still remember it all these years later is a testament to its merit.

And now that Canabalt's been selected for the MoMA's permanent collection, it will be forever impossible to determine whether the game was remembered because of its own staying power, or just because the MoMA told us that we ought to remember it.

"it will be forever impossible to determine whether the game was remembered because of its own staying power, or just because the MoMA told us that we ought to remember it."

Isn't that the case with all contemporary art acquisitions, though? I'm reminded of this quote by Dave Hickey from Air Guitar:

"Since there is no absolute authority in the art world, or in the economic world either, we may presume that for every opinion, there is a contrary one. Thus, the social value of a work of art, or an art critic, or a theory, or an institution must be distinguished from its social virtue, since bad reviews, stupid acquisitions, and theoretical attacks, even as they question the social virtue of an object or investment, must necessarily invest it with social value. The raw investment of attention, positive or negative, qualifies certain works of art as “players” in the discourse. So, even though it may appear to you that nearly everyone hates Jeff Koons’ work, the critical point is that people take the time and effort to hate it, publicly and at length, and this investment of attention effectively endows Koons’ work with more importance than the work of those artists whose work we like, but not enough to get excited about."

I mean, give it time or ignore it, or both. All museums make questionable purchases. Being in the permanent collection is certainly a boon, but it won't change how people fundamentally feel about the art in a few generations. Maybe it'll remain successful, maybe it won't, but it certainly captures something which i guess is reason enough to acquire it.

I've always had the impression that Nethack had pretty much the best attention to detail of any roguelike game, and the most thoroughly developed game world (though much of that only becomes apparent about halfway through the game). Rogue clearly would have been a great choice from a historical standpoint, but I can't argue with their choice that Nethack is pretty amazing as a work of art. (I can't comment on DCSS.)

It depends on how you define "attention to detail". Both NetHack and DCSS feature online play and fiendish difficulty. NetHack's claim to fame is its complex system of interactions and "the devteam thinks of everything"[1].

On the other hand, DCSS is the pinnacle of roguelike usability. The devs strive to make the game "fair"--which is to say, a death is (99.9% of the time) your fault, and not just bad luck. So no instadeaths, no save-or-die effects, and spoilers should be largely unnecessary (that's the philosophy, at least...). They also hold annual usability studies and incorporate that feedback into the game. As a result, it's a game that's both very approachable and very deep. I highly recommend it if you're a fan of roguelikes.

[1] http://nethack.wikia.com/wiki/The_DevTeam_Thinks_Of_Everythi...

I have a question. I understand Pac-Man and Tetris in the collection. But what does it mean to collect EVE Online? I presume it does not mean MoMA has collected its server code and data?

From close to the end of the article:

"some of the games we have acquired (for instance Dwarf Fortress and EVE Online) take years and millions of people to manifest fully. To convey their experience, we will work with players and designers to create guided tours of these alternate worlds, so the visitor can begin to appreciate the extent and possibilities of the complex gameplay."

(Dwarf Fortress is clearly more about the "years" than the "millions of people", mind you.)

So is it more difficult for them to get Japanese games in their collection? The lack of Japanese games, save for Katamari Damacy, is pretty striking. Seeing Passage on the list also got a groan out of me.

Pac-man, Tetris and Vib-Ribbon are also Japanese.

Their "wish list" includes many more Japanese games, like Donkey Kong, 2 Super Mario Bros. games, The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter II, Chrono Trigger and Animal Crossing.

Tetris is Russian, not Japanese...

The Tetris board game is Russian. The Game Boy game is Japanese.

Notable that they chose to collect these games as design as opposed to art.

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