MoMA Goes 8-Bit, Acquires 14 Videogames for Permanent Collection

MoMA said it hopes to build up a collection of 40 videogames

New York's Museum of Modern Art said Thursday that it has acquired 14 videogames to kick off a new permanent collection that includes old favorites like "Pac-Man," "The Sims" and "Tetris."

The museum has fixed its sights on 26 other games, too, as it expands the new collection curated by Paola Antonelli. Housed in the department of architecture and design, the exhibit will open in the Philip Johnson Galleries in March.

"Are video games art?" Antonelli, a senior curator at the museum, wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisitions. "They sure are, but they are also design, and a design approach is what we chose for this new foray into this universe."

The collection spans decades of games, from 1980's 8-bit hit "Pac-Man" to 2009's iPhone game "Canabalt." But Antonelli said she hopes to round out the exhibit with such dinosaurs as the 1962 game "Spacewar!" and "Pong" and "Snake" from the 1970s Atari-ancestor, the Magnavox Odyssey console.

Visitors will be able to play the games, though games that take longer will have a time limit. Some will also be re-coded into a newer format if the games' physical cartridges are too weathered to withstand a steady flow of gamers.

But some popular games — how did they miss "Angry Birds?" — didn't make the cut.

"Because of the tight filter we apply to any category of objects in MoMA’s collection, our selection does not include some immensely popular video games that might have seemed like no-brainers to videogame historians," Antonelli said.

She said they are eyeing games that allow the curators to explore behavior, aesthetic, space and time.

Here is a full list of the games MoMA has acquired:

Pac-Man (1980)
Tetris (1984)
Another World (1991)
Myst (1993)
SimCity 2000 (1994)
vib-ribbon (1999)
The Sims (2000)
Katamari Damacy (2004)
EVE Online (2003)
Dwarf Fortress (2006)
Portal (2007)
flOw (2006)
Passage (2008)
Canabalt (2009)