I don’t have anything particularly insightful to add to the news that MoMA has acquired 14 video games for its permanent collection, apart from a hearty “hurrah!” and slight confusion about what it means for a museum to “acquire” a video game. Luckily, MoMA’s Paola Antonelli comes to the rescue on that last front, writing a detailed post on the museum’s blog:
In order to be able to preserve the games, we should always try to acquire the source code in the language in which it was written, so as to be able to translate it in the future, should the original technology become obsolete.
Then of course there’s the issue of curating the backend of the game (the part that arguably contains the creators’ true creativity), the code. Writes Antonelli:
We request any corroborating technical documentation, and possibly an annotated report of the code by the original designer or programmer. Writing code is a creative and personal process. Interviewing the designers at the time of acquisition and asking for comments and notes on their work makes preservation and future emulation easier.
Then there are the rights issues, which can only be legion. So it’s not perhaps as simple a slamdunk as you might have imagined, and hats off to MoMA for recognizing the artistry and genius of the likes of Pac-Man, Katamari Damacy, and The Sims (with Pong, Asteroids and Donkey Kong still to come.)
[Pac-man image via Flickr/methodshop.com.]