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Video games enter home of Van Gogh, Dali

Updated: 2012-12-18 10:22
By Tiffany Tan ( China Daily)
Video games enter home of Van Gogh, Dali

Jenova Chen, the co-designer of the video game Flow. [Photo provided to China Daily]

This spring, Van Gogh's The Starry Night and Dali's Persistence of Memory will be getting some new electronic roommates. Fourteen video games, including Pac-Man, Tetris and The Sims, will go on permanent exhibit at New York's Museum of Modern Art, which is regarded as the world's most influential museum of its kind.

Among the video games in this landmark collection is Flow, co-designed in 2006 by a Chinese graduate student at the University of Southern California.

Although the game has its fans - its PlayStation 3 version was nominated for downloadable game of the year at the 2008 Interactive Achievement Awards, dubbed "the Oscars of video games" - Jenova Chen, or Chen Xinghan, was still surprised it was the one among his works that got picked.

"My other games have won much bigger awards, but they didn't get in - except for this tiny little game I made in school," game developer Chen says by phone from Los Angeles, where he has been living for almost 10 years.

"I think MoMA basically selected the most idiot-proof game."

In Flow, the player guides a worm-like aquatic creature through a series of two-dimensional planes, where it can eat or be eaten by other microorganisms. Unlike conventional games, there are no menus or guidelines. And the player's creature never dies: It just expands and evolves or shrinks.

With its heavy emphasis on aesthetics over game play, Flow is "basically like buying art", the Gamespot website says in a review.

This assessment isn't far off from why it made MoMA's cut.

"Flow is an example of a purely sublime and aesthetic experience in which the flow of time is a support to the fluidity of movement and the novelty of the experience," Paola Antonelli, senior curator in the museum's department of architecture and design, says in an e-mail.

Video games enter home of Van Gogh, Dali

Video games enter home of Van Gogh, Dali

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