Video Games collection at the Museum of London

CITY | SPACE | VIDEO GAMES: a series of talks exploring the relationship between video games, history, art and architecture.

The Museum of London is programming a series of talks around our video games collection in September-November 2016.

The talks start at 7pm at the Weston Theatre of the museum. You can book your tickets now!

1. London and the history of video games [ 26th September]

This talk will look into depictions of London in video games from historic to modern video games and from British to non-British developers. The Museum of London is currently engaged in a new, experimental collecting project which encompasses all digital media including film/video, sound, social media, and the web. The focus of the current digital collecting area is around Video Games. MoL has acquired 18 video games that represent or misrepresent London in their narrative. A collection that spans from 1982–2000 and highlights the depiction of London as a place and as a concept.

But how is a city represented in the digital world? In a video game?

A city is more than bridges, money, buildings and cables, more even than the social networks, lives and institutions within it. Cities are fluid entities that evolve and expand ceaselessly. Videogames, because they are experienced through motion and activity, have the capacity to depict a range of urban structures, representations, and systems.


Jack Gosling (freelance writer for the Londonist)

Jordan Webber (freelance journalist specialising in games)

Tristan Donovan (Author of the acclaimed Replay: The History of Video Games and writes about games for The Times, Stuff, Eurogamer and Gamasutra)

2. Video Games and Architecture: Cities in virtual worlds [24th October]

London is a constantly moving wave of urban transformation and social change. The city expands, neighbourhoods change, landmarks pop up, and people blend in and weave the city. The greatest preserved feature of London is its own urban fabric. It’s not about the Big Ben and its landmarks; it’s about capturing the essence of its fluidity, diversity and expansion. A place without boundaries but with people, emotions and memories. London is an ever-changing city; the city’s skyline is constantly moving, societies are shifting, reflecting its adaptability to social change. The city has been redeveloped through history from the Great Fire to the London Blitz and beyond, creating a palimpsest of stories and memories.

Back in 1960, urban studies author Kevin Lynch recognised that, “moving elements in a city and in particular the people and their activities, are as important as the stationary physical parts”. Three-dimensional game cities are nor static environments or stationary views. They are experienced through movement, action, play and immersion.

Is the concept of space in video games represented through a three-dimensional simulation and the concept of the city experienced through our understanding of the space combined with our own experiences and shared cultural references? Where the city becomes a place of more profound adventure, fantasy and a crossing point of experiences and imagination?


Dr. Diane Carr (IOE — Culture, Communication & Media, UCL Institute of Education)

Dr. Nic Clear (Head of Architecture and Landscape, Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Humanities, University of Greenwich)

Ed Mascarenhas (Artist)

Usman Haque (Umbrellium)

Dr. Ruairi Glynn (Director of the Interactive Architecture Lab at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London)

3. Art, Video Games and Digital Worlds [7th November]

The first virtual worlds were text-based. Everything in them was described in words: the world, its inhabitants, the objects, the players, the events that occurred, the actions that the players undertook — everything. An amazing way to navigate a city without any visual props but only through imagination and experience. And now video games simulate incredibly accurately replications of the cities and their landmarks, offering an almost cinematic experience to the player.

Recently there has been a significant surge of museums focusing on video games, starting with MOMA in 2007 and causing a great debate in the museums world whether video games belong in museum collections and if they can be understood as an art form.

Are art installations the new video games?

The question of whether digital artefacts, such as videogames, can be considered ‘art’ is by no means a new one. The late Roger Ebert was a passionate critic of the idea, claiming that the ludic quality of most videogames — scores, rules and objectives — prevents them from being subjectively experienced as art.

So, games may or may not be art — this isn’t a new debate. What is worth asking now, however, is whether or not art can be considered a game. Does the new wave of digital interactive works constitute the gamification of art? Can we experience art by playing with it? And what impact does digital technology have on this process?

** Before the talk there is going to be a performance game in the Garden Room performed by Seth Kriebel- limited availability:


Seth Kriebel (Artist)

Michael Takeo Magruder (Artist)

Ju Row Farr (Blast Theory)

Dr. Magnus Moar (Senior Lecturer in Digital Arts Technologies Middlesex University)