This is the first of hopefully many essays, interviews and articles in a series called "Bridging Worlds", in which LA-based artist and VGT guest author Eron Rauch takes a close look at the blurred line between games and art. These articles are intended as conversation starters about the burgeoning intersection between the fine art world, academic studies of games, virtual photography, and video game creation.
This time, Eron visits Dwarf Fortress at NYC MoMA - where he discovers some of the difficulties in exhibiting games at museums but also accidentally stumbles on some nearby potential solutions.
Iwas in NYC recently, doing all of the typical things that someone who is a tourist-trying-not-to-be-a-tourist does: wandering Chinatown, eating pastrami sandwiches, riding the subway, enjoying the super-late bar closing time and seeing art, all while sweating in the 100 degree heat wave. The thing I wanted most was to spend as much time in air conditioning as possible. I mean, being the professional artist and avid gamer that I am, I wanted to see how the Museum of Modern Art was displaying their new collection of video games. Specifically I wanted to see how they were going to handle Dwarf Fortress, the game that took ten hours of online tutorial videos for me to have even the slightest clue what I was doing.
There have been innumerable discussions about the meaning of MoMA acquiring video games as part of their culturally important holdings. Sometimes thorny theoretical issues like this are best put in perspective by actually experiencing the question physically. In this case, by experiencing the off-white halls where the works are housed; with the smells and sounds of bored teens and tourist parents, turtlenecked intelligentsia, under-slept art students, and museum guards in stuffy suits.