Is Pac-Man worthy of the same attention as Picasso? Well, the iconic 1980s video game is now part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, along with such ground-breaking paintings as Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. And Pac-Man is just one of the first 14 video games that MoMA acquired. They'll soon be on view in a forthcoming exhibition, "Applied Design," opening next week in New York.
Along with Pac-Man (dating to 1980), the games Tetris (1984), Another World (1991), Myst (1993), SimCity (2000), vib-ribbon (1999), The Sims (2000), Katamari Damacy (2004), EVE Online (2003), Dwarf Fortress (2006), Portal (2007), flOw (2006), Passage (2008), and Canabalt (2009) are also new additions to MoMA's holdings. They're all categorized within the Architecture and Design collection.
In a press release, MoMA indicated that these fourteen are part of a 40-title "wish list" of video games that the museum wants to (or in this case, did) acquire.
They were chosen not only because some were immensely popular and deeply ingrained in the memories of many a Gen-Xer, but also because MoMA's Paola Antonelli, senior curator, and Kate Carmody, curatorial assistant, have researched what games represent effective interaction design. In many ways, the enduring power of Pac-Man and Tetris is due to their compelling, yet simple aesthetics and the intuitiveness of their controls.
I'll be reviewing the larger "Applied Design" exhibition for SmartPlanet after it opens, so stay tuned. I hope to relate these 14 games to other examples of interaction design, new materials, and innovative products that will make up the larger and diverse show. It promises to range from, as a press release states, a new type of mine detonator to 3D printed furniture to a bowl made from desert sand, using solar energy. I'm curious to find the threads between all of these and that adorable glowing, animated circle that likes to gobble dots. (Yes, a.k.a. Pac-Man).