clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Museum of Modern Art to add games to its collection including Pac-Man, The Sims, Portal

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

The Museum of Modern Art will soon add video games to its collection, starting with 14 games including Pac-Man, The Sims and Portal in March 2013.

According to Paola Antonelli, senior curator at the museum's Department of Architecture and Design, the 14 titles listed below will serve as a "seedbed for an initial wish list of about 40" — as well as the foundation of "a new category of artworks in MoMA's collection that we hope will grow in the future."

The following 14 games spanning the past 30-plus years of video game history will be installed in the museum's Philip Johnson Galleries:

  • Pac-Man (Namco, 1980)
  • Tetris (Alexey Pajitnov, 1984)
  • Another World (Eric Chahi, 1991)
  • Myst (Cyan, 1993)
  • SimCity 2000 (Maxis, 1994)
  • Vib-Ribbon (NanaOn-Sha, 1999)
  • The Sims (Maxis, 2000)
  • Eve Online (CCP Games, 2003)
  • Katamari Damacy (Namco, 2004)
  • Dwarf Fortress (Tarn and Zach Adams, 2006)
  • Flow (thatgamecompany, 2006)
  • Portal (Valve Software, 2007)
  • Passage (Jason Rohrer, 2008)
  • Canabalt (Adam Saltsman, 2009)

According to Antonelli, the games will reside in the museum's architecture and design department because the curators took a design approach to video games. "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," she said. MoMA's criteria for choosing games focus on elements aside from visual and aesthetic considerations; player behavior and the underlying code itself are factors.

"The games are selected as outstanding examples of interaction design"

As for exhibiting the games themselves, the museum plans to figure out a solution that suits each title. Passage can be played in its entirety within five minutes, but most games will receive a playable demo or a video, and older games — "for which the original cartridges may be too fragile or hard to find" — will be emulated. And for special cases such as Dwarf Fortress and Eve Online, the museum will offer guided in-game tours.

The museum plans to augment the collection with additional important titles over the next few years, including Pong, The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter 2 and Minecraft. The MoMA collection will follow roughly one year after the Smithsonian American Art Museum's "The Art of Video Games" exhibit.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon