A Spotlight on the Art of Video Games


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next month, mortal combat 30 years ago Look back at that 1992 arcade game and it almost seems quaint. Cartoony 2D fights, pixelated gore. But what many players may not remember, or simply weren’t alive to experience, was this mortal combat was the eye of a storm of violence in video games. Its splashy gore was the subject of congressional hearings and contributed to the creation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which to this day rates the content and age of games. Three decades later, mortal combat is a classic, and debates about video game violence are often seen as over-the-top.

Paola Antonelli, curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, thinks a lot about it. Not particularly about mortal combat, but about violence in art, and what purpose it has. Antonelli is currently under curatorship never alone, an exhibition about video games and interactive design that opens at the museum this weekend. When he arrived at MoMA 28 years ago, he argued that a Beretta pistol should be part of the design collection. Others at MoMA rejected the idea. Antonelli protested, saying that weapons were depicted in all kinds of works, so why not have one in the collection? The reasoning was that paintings and sculpture often show representations of guns; putting one in the museum would be an endorsement of its function. “We apply the same principle to video games,” says Antonelli. “We had a lot of discussions about gratuitous violence versus targeted violence.”

To this end, never alone does not include Assassin’s Creed or Grand Theft Autobut it does have This war of mine, a game from the perspective of a civilian trying to survive the conflict. MoMA collections specialist Paul Galloway describes it as “an incredibly violent game,” but that’s not the point. “Some of the most interesting games deal with the issue of violence in a way that moves us forward,” he says.

Antonelli and Galloway see video games as cultural artifacts worthy of discussion. People have been talking about it for a long time, but the exhibition, which will run until next spring, aims to give games a more prominent artistic platform. It’s not just the case that creating graphics or storytelling for games are worthy pursuits, it’s about showing that the way people interact with them isn’t so different from the way they interact with art.

This is true right down to the title of the exhibition: never alone. Derived from the game of the same name, which is part of MoMA’s permanent collection, like everything else in the exhibition, it’s a testament to the fact that while people want to paint gamers as shooting loners in their basements, video games can be communal. – building This has only become truer in the age of Twitch. Last week, as I walked through the MoMA exhibit while it was still under construction, it was easy to see evidence of this. There are games-Pac-Man, Space invaders– on display But also the many interactive design tools, like a first-generation iPod and Susan Kare’s icon notebook for the original Apple Macintosh. The point, Antonelli tells me, is to show that, with games, art is made when a player interacts with a designer’s work. Each turn is unique.



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