Future Tense

Museum of Modern Art “Acquires” 14 Video Games, Including Tetris and SimCity 2000

Soon the Museum of Modern Art will house video games. Above, people enter MoMA in 2004.

Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Take that, Roger Ebert.

In 2010, the venerable Chicago film critic penned an infamous op-ed titled “Video Games Can Never Be Art.” But today, the Museum of Modern Art announced that it is now collecting video games, with 14 titles forming the basis of a permanent collection on interactive design in the video game industry. For gamers like me, this is serious validation of our often dismissed pastime.

MoMa curator Paola Antonelli, who revealed the museum’s acquisition today in an official blog post, gives resounding authority to the idea that video games are indeed art. So Ebert can kick rocks. (That is me editorializing—Antonelli did not, would never, write that. She didn’t even mention Ebert. But maybe she should have.)   


Antonelli went on to write that not only are video games art, “but they are also design, and a design approach is what we chose for this new foray into this universe.” The video games selected will fit in with the museum’s already extensive collection of interactive design highlighting “one of the most important and oft-discussed expressions of contemporary design creativity.”


The 14 titles already in the permanent exhibit are Pac-Man, Tetris, Another World, Myst, SimCity 2000, vib-ribbon, The Sims, Katamari Damacy, EVE Online, Dwarf Fortress, Portal, flOw, Passage, and Canabalt. There are also plans to add 26 additional games to its collection, including Spacewar!, Pong, Snake, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, M.U.L.E., Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter II, Chrono Trigger, Animal Crossing, and Minecraft. (At least MoMA has better taste than Time.) “Because of the tight filter we apply to any category of objects in MoMA’s collection, our selection does not include some immensely popular video games that might have seemed like no-brainers to video game historians,” wrote Antonelli.


The video games were chosen using four main criteria: The behavior designers prompt from the players, aesthetics, time spent in the game, and space, which is described as “an architecture that is planned, designed, and constructed according to a precise program, sometimes pushing technology to its limits in order to create brand new degrees of expressive and spatial freedom.” 

MoMa’s acquisition comes on the heels of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s six-month exhibit on “The Art of Video Games,” which included a few of the titles acquired by MoMa.

The display of the fist 14 video games will be ready in March 2013. MoMa will either create videos or “interactive experiences” or, if the game is short enough, allow patrons to play them in their entirety. So maybe arcades aren’t entirely a thing of the past—we’ll just have to visit museums to see them.