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How The World's Craziest Video Game Is Changing MoMA

How The World s Craziest Video Game Is Changing MoMA Co Design business design

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Dwarf Fortress is probably the most complicated video game ever created. Tasking players with creating a self-sustaining world for its eponymous dwarves, entire epochs of time pass before you even start a game, and this level of detail continues into the game itself, with dwarves mourning for lost children, suddenly deciding to become dentists, sinking into schizophrenia, or creating magnificent works of art. It's a living world.

It not only inspired hit games such as Minecraft, but New York's Museum of Modern Art has added the game to its permanent collection. And as a recent piece by Polygon spells out, Dwarf Fortress's unique status as a video game is making MoMA re-think the way it preserves art.

Part of what attracted MoMA to this came is that it's an ever-changing work in progress, recently receiving its first update in two years. And according to Tarn Adams, the game's reclusive creator, his life's work will take him another 20 years to complete. But how do you archive a constantly updated work of digital art, let alone a living virtual world?

MoMA's Paul Galloway told Polygon that MOMA had a media conservator write a server script that automatically scans the Dwarf Fortress for new updates, downloads them immediately, and then stores them in a gigantic subterranean data store in the belly of the MoMA's basement.

"Our idea is that if somebody bombs [the Dwarf Fortress team] tomorrow, blew up everything that they had, we would be--if nowhere else in the world--the one sure repository of everything that has been made for Dwarf Fortress thus far," Galloway told Polygon.

This is so cool! I wonder where we can learn more.

A start:

The best answer to SimCity, and its only challenger as the most interesting simulation game, is just across the way from it at the MOMA exhibition: Dwarf Fortress. It is not so much SimCity’s monstrous offspring as its gifted, maniacal, extremely worrisome younger brother. Officially titled Slaves to Armok: God of Blood, Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress, this bizarre, brilliant game by a Texan named Tarn Adams (working almost entirely on his own) has been a public work-in-progress since 2006, in which time it has, according to a 2011 New York Times Magazine profile of its creator, been downloaded about a million times. If SimCity is the video game as toy—inviting, open-ended, and subtly but unmistakably limited—Dwarf Fortress is the video game as folk art masterpiece: eccentric, over-the-top, and oddly affecting.

A million times?! Wow. Can't believe this is the first I've heard of it!

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