Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Video Games Added to the Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art located in New York City, NY has selected several video games to add to their permanent collection. In additional to traditional wall art, painting, sculpture and photography, games have been selected by the Museum of Modern Art to show design elements for each game.

In November 2012, the first 14 initial games were selected and announced, with plans to expand the collection to 40 games over time, as the museum can acquire the rights to display them. In June 2013, six more games were added to the collection and a game console.

Games are curate by Paola Antonelli. The majority of games in the collection can be played on certain levels and are shown in such a way to minimize nostalgia's influence.

Are Video Games Art?

One of the most popular games on display is of course; you guessed it, Pac-Man.

The exhibition raised controversy, as you might anticipate due to video games are not commonly considered art, according to critics therefore they may not have a place in an art gallery.

But to add a bit of credibility the collection of games are modeled on the 1934 "Machine Art," exhibition by Philip Johnson. In this exhibition, Phillip displays a minimalist fashion of machinery such as propeller blades focusing on its mechanical design.

The exhibition would end up creating a shock, which made people realize how much art really is in design pieces. And according to the exhibit curator this is the desired effect.

It appears that in order to minimize factors like nostalgia, the video games are shown in a minimalist way. They are displayed where only a screen and a control device can be seen on a blank wall.

At least one more video game, namely Katamari Damacy, was previously shown in the design galleries of MoMA (Museum Of Modern Art). The exhibition is part of a movement that includes forms beyond traditional media that the Modern Art Museum began in 2006, starting with digital fonts and then moving to video games.

Pac-Man Added to the Modern Art Museum

MoMA planned the movement of traffic between games carefully. Games such as Pac-Man that are likely to be played heavily and require less time to play are places near entrances and exits. Other games which require more time to play are displayed with a demo version of the game so visitors can beat the game and move on. This way a visitor can get a feel for the game without having to play for hours.

The source code for these games is most valued and is the intellectual property of the developer. MoMA is interested not in the source code but in the game’s hardware and interface. Instead of acquiring the games source code a simulation or emulation is acquired. What MoMA is primarily interested in is showing the interaction.

The collection at MoMA definitely has a heavy bias towards the classic era of arcade machines and 8-bit consoles. In this era a few visionaries laid the foundation for the future of gaming.

These games developed in the 70s and 80s still remain as compelling today as they were when first announced.

The Magnavox Odyssey console of Ralph H. Baer 

Added By Evan-Amos - Own work, Public Domain
Added By Evan-Amos - Own work, Public Domain,

The Magnavox Odyssey console of Ralph H. Baer was added because it was considered both a masterpiece of engineering and industrial design and was of great importance during the industry's birth. Ralph is known as the father of video games. He was a German inventor, game developer and engineer.

Before World War II, Baer's family fled Germany. Baer served the American war effort, after which he became interested in electronics. He worked as an engineer at Sanders Associates, which later was acquired by BAE Systems. After working several jobs in the electronics industry he conceived the idea of playing games on a TV screen in about 1966.

He worked through several prototypes with the support of his employers until he reached a "Brown Box" which became the blueprint for the first home video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey. 

Baer continued to design a number of other consoles and computer game units, including the electronic game “Simon”. Baer continued working in electronics with more than 150 patents in his name until his death in 2014.

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