By Harold Goldberg
It was some time in the making. But yesterday, the New York Videogame Critics Circle took about 15 of the students we mentor at the Bronx’s DreamYard Preparatory School to the treasure that is Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art for an exclusive talk with their curators about the museum’s videogame collection.
MOMA’s curators prepared a fascinating, slide-filled presentation that included the reasons they believe games should be considered art alongside cubist legend Pablo Picasso works like “Guerenica” and Sven Wingquist’s wondrous Self Aligning Ball Bearing.
The 23 games in MoMA’s collection were the result of ardent hard work that included a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears. For instance, as much as curators tried to convince Nintendo to come on board they didn’t, according to curator Paola Antonelli. She said that Shigeru Miyamoto was into the idea of having Mario and Zelda exist in a permanent place within the museum archives. But Nintendo’s lawyers ultimately nixed the contract. (The same went for Apple’s fonts. Steve Jobs was against the idea.)
MoMA also made the choice to exclude violent videogames from the collection. But curators said they would reconsider that rule in the future as they begin to consider new games to add to their library.
The students learned about the painstaking process of collecting art and about work in a museum as a possible pathway to success. They heard about the humble nature of game legends like Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani and Magnavox Odyssey inventor Ralph Baer (our first legend award winner at the New York Game Awards).
After listening to animated talk about the artful nature of games like The Sims and Minecraft, the students suggested a number of more current games that might be put into MoMA’s game collection in the future. Before leaving, they were all given passes to return to the museum to browse all the collections freely in the near future. A great afternoon was had by all, no doubt about that.
Special thanks to Nadine Dosa at MoMA for being our point person and to Jeremy Ogyemang, our DreamYard educator, for bringing the students by subway from the Bronx.