Code As Art

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has announced that it is adding 14 video games to its Architecture and Design collection. The museum will start displaying the games in March 2013 and, bit by bit, curators hope to acquire 40 altogether, including classics like Pong (1972) or Snake (original dates back to 1970s; Nokia created a version in 1997). “Are video games art? They sure are,” Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design, said in a news release. “The games are selected as outstanding examples of interaction design.” Antonelli evaluates their artistic value based on four dimensions: behavior, aesthetics, space and time. In terms of behavior, the games create different codes of conduct, challenge “the way things are and envision how they might be.” The aesthetics depend on the technology used to create them and often defines their identity. Created via code, the space that the games inhabit make for a unique study in architecture, defying “spatial logic and gravity,” whether they are played by one player or multiple players. And each game boasts its own sense of time based on how long it takes to finish each level or the game entirely: “whose time is it anyway, the real world’s or the game’s own?”

To preserve the games, MoMA has asked the games’ creators for original software format, hardware, notes from the original programmers and designers, and most importantly, the original source code “so as to be able to translate it in the future, should the original technology become obsolete.”

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