Why Paola Antonelli Brought Pac-Man To MoMA

June 12, 2013

Video Game Development

As I was preparing to go to E3 this week, I was delighted to see Paola Antonelli’s fascinating talk: Why I Brought Pac-Man to MoMA on TED.   Her reasons for including 14 classic video games in the MoMA collection are that they are all examples of good design.  This collection is to celebrate and preserve these games as early examples of interaction design.  I applauded the initiative even before I heard her presentation. After watching it, and knowing how much video games have evolved since those early examples, I would love to see MoMA continue to build the collection and include more recent innovations in interaction design.

However, this collection also created a heated debate about whether video games were art.  Some argued that since they were not art, they should not be part of the MoMA collection, overlooking that these were part of a collection on interaction design.  Even more interesting – the debate continued in the comments on the TED website with some people passionately arguing for each side.

As someone who works in the video game industry and with artists everyday, I asked myself – and a few colleagues – are video games art? We all agreed that the early examples in the MoMA collection are definitely not art.  However, when we started to think of some recent games, we could come up with examples that could be considered art.  When you look at the definition of fine art:

fine art

fine arts, plural

  1. Creative art, esp. visual art, whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content
    • – the convergence of popular culture and fine art
  2. An activity requiring great skill or accomplishment
    • – he’ll have to learn the fine art of persuasion

there are a few video games on the market in the past few years that meet the first definition.  All of them are well known in the game community, but they are unfortunately not as well known in the broad public.  Some game developers are working to create beautiful, emmersive worlds, meaningful narrative and an emotional or intellectual experience that goes beyond shooting, fighting and solving simple puzzles.  As the technology on which these games are built evolves, artists, writers and designers will be able to take us more into the realm of art.  It will be interesting to be part of the evolution!

Meanwhile, watch Paola Antonelli’s presentation.  What games do you think are great experiences due to interaction design?  Can you think of any games that could be considered art?


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About Liza Wood

After a dozen years leading video game development projects in a variety of roles, I decided to pursue a Master of Data Science at the University of British Columbia. Studying data science doesn’t mean I’m moving away from leading people. Growing data science teams need collaborative, pragmatic, Agile leadership to connect data to all areas of the business. I would like to share that point of view, along with my experiences, on this blog.

View all posts by Liza Wood

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3 Comments on “Why Paola Antonelli Brought Pac-Man To MoMA”

  1. loucyo Says:

    Thank you for supporting Antonelli’s view. And it’s interesting how people can’t accept game design in a museum with the word “modern” in it’s name. Also, I believe people need to be exposed to exactly how game developers have to work hard in order to create these beautiful virtual crafting. I believe people have a perception that creating video game aesthetics is a mere pushing of buttons and doesn’t require much work – that cannot be more further from the truth.


    • Liza Wood Says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your point of view. It’s true – the broad public is not aware of how much skill, passion and love goes into creating a video game. I think if they actually saw our artists paint and sculpt using their digital tools, we would begin to create a bridge of understanding with the traditional arts.



  1. 9 great talks to watch for Video Games Day | Sockets and Lightbulbs - July 8, 2013

    […] Why Paola Antonelli Brought Pac-Man to MoMA […]

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