The museum exhibits 11 video games from its collection (Minecraft, Pac-Man, Simcity…) to examine the interactions between the machine and the player.
Are video games an art? If the question may never have an answer, some cultural institutions have not waited for it to put the medium on display in their exhibitions. Witness the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), one of the most renowned museums in the world, which puts video games in the spotlight with the exhibition “Never Alone: Video Games and Other Interactive Design“.
A very abstract name at first glance, but which actually concerns most of our lives. “Design influences all the interactions we have with machines, whether with an ATM, a telephone or a video game”, explains to Tech&Co Paul Galloway, specialist in the collections of the Design & Architecture department of the museum.
And what better gateway to talking about design than video games, with its controllers ranging from the sober to the improbable, its infinite worlds to explore, and its sometimes unpredictable interactions? “Video games are defined by these ideas of machine interaction.”
“What’s amazing is what people do with it”
11 video games are thus exhibited in the MoMA gallery, ranging from classics like Pac-Man and Simcity to curiosities like Katamari Damacy or Flowers, passing by complete UFOs that are more of a visual experience than the game itself. And still others are projected on the walls of the museum, from Pong to Getting over it with Benett Foddy.
The museum looks at interactive design through three aspects: first the “input”, that is to say the way in which the machine receives the human signal. The exhibition reconstructs the history of these interfaces, ranging from the Pac-Man joystick to touch screens, including the buttons of arcade terminals and the Playstation controller.
MoMA of course studies “the role of the designer, who builds the experience and the story for the player”, and finally “the perspective of the player, with the creative freedom and interactions with the environment” which can transform the experience of the game in a completely unforeseen way, even for its creators.
“We see it in one of our examples, Minecraft: what’s really amazing about this game is what people do with it, even more than the game itself,” exclaims Paul Galloway.
“We should never have an answer”
And that’s just a sample of MoMA’s collection, which has 36 games patiently accumulated since 2012. Why does an institution like MoMA have such an interest in video games? A duty, for Paul Galloway:
“The video game is the art of our time”, summarizes the manager.
Because the video game has long since escaped from arcades and consoles to colonize every moment of our lives thanks to its mechanics (point systems, comparison with other users…). “I often meet people who tell me that they don’t play video games, and I ask them: do you play crosswords on the site of the New York Times? Do you use Duolingo? These are all video games.”
“We cannot say that we are a museum that tries to reflect on the art of our time if we do not take into account this incredible and rich field of creativity that is video games”, says Paul Galloway.
There remains the eternal debate: is the video game an art? “I think this is a very important question…because it should never be answered,” said Paul Galloway. “The important thing is to keep asking yourself, to ask yourself what you value and why.”
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