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Art & Culture

Gaming Goes Glam: MoMA’s Bold Move to Acknowledge Video Games as Art

  • Marilyn Walters
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  • July 28, 2023
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  • 3 minute read
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Gaming Goes Glam: MoMA’s Bold Move to Acknowledge Video Games as Art

Explore MoMA’s groundbreaking move to exhibit video games as an art form, as they bridge the gap between traditional art connoisseurs and modern game creators

Key Takeaways
  • MoMA has boldly ventured into the realm of video games, recognizing them as an emerging art form.
  • Despite the cultural shift, there are challenges in fully integrating video games into the traditional art landscape, from assessing their cultural significance to navigating legal and technological hurdles.
  • The curators believe that gaming, as a deeply immersive, psychological act, defines our digital age and deserves its rightful place in the museum.

Embracing the Virtual: Video Games Earn Their Spot in the Art World at MoMA

Picture this: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), a sanctuary for traditional fine arts, is now an interactive playhouse, opening its doors to an exciting new medium – video games. Yes, the domain typically claimed by Monet or Warhol, is now showcasing games, catapulting them to the echelons of art forms.

Stepping into the Future: MoMA’s Tryst with Video Games

Since the museum’s bold step into the realm of digital art a decade ago, it has been a vibrant reflection of how video games have not only come of age but also redefined our contemporary culture. Their latest exhibition, “Never Alone: Video Games and Other Interactive Design,” is a brave leap forward in the digital sphere, portraying the vast potential of the gaming universe.

Refik Anadol’s captivating algorithmic homage to art history adorns the lobby while an immersive presentation about the significance of video holds court on the sixth floor until July 8. Scattered across the permanent collection, we find intriguing artifacts such as the Google Maps pin and a comprehensive schematic representing the intricate chain of resources behind the creation of Amazon’s AI system, Echo.

Explore MoMA’s groundbreaking move to exhibit video games as an art form, as they bridge the gap between traditional art connoisseurs and modern game creators

Bridging the Gap: Unifying Art Admirers and Game Designers

Yet, MoMA could further shatter the invisible barrier separating art aficionados and game creators. Drawing inspiration from its history of embracing unconventional mediums, like its early embrace of film in 1935 and its presentation of everyday objects like toasters and cash registers as “Machine Art” in 1934, there is a unique opportunity for the curators to infuse a similar zeal for video games.

Dotted around the first floor, ancient computer monitors perch overhead, displaying a mix of playable and viewable games from the museum’s collection. It’s an enthralling digital flashback to the 90s, featuring works of John Maeda, Microsoft’s current Vice President of Design and AI.

However, to keep pace with the ever-evolving gaming landscape, which is projected to generate a whopping $385 billion in revenue in 2023, MoMA needs to revamp its assessment standards for the cultural relevance of video games.

Gaming: The New Artistic Medium

For the exhibition’s curators, Paola Antonelli and Paul Galloway, gaming transcends mere entertainment. It is an intimate, psychological act defining our current era, where screen-mediated interactions have become the norm.

Game designers, such as Will Wright, creator of the famed game The Sims, invite players to learn life lessons from the gaming experience, or simply enjoy it for its entertainment value.

The question of video games’ status as an art form has fueled fiery debates since the 2010s. Critics like Roger Ebert and Jonathan Jones have argued against video games’ artistic credentials. However, this narrow perspective mirrors historical biases against innovative mediums, such as performance art, which found acceptance over time.

Gaming invites players into immersive virtual worlds with a simple touch of a controller, a testament to its artistic potential. And yet, one wonders why a prestigious institution like MoMA hasn’t yet held a major retrospective of a video game designer. Is it due to the complicated rights issues, the challenges of technological obsolescence, or the logistical nightmare of wiring all those electronic systems?

Regardless of the hurdles, the time seems ripe for MoMA to assert why gaming deserves its place in the museum and help visitors distinguish between scholarly exploration and commercial retail, like the nearby Nintendo store.

Marilyn Walters

Marilyn Walters

Marilyn is a seasoned journalist known for her investigative reporting and insightful analysis. Her relentless pursuit of truth and dedication to journalistic integrity have established her as a respected voice in today's dynamic news landscape.

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