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Nethack is now in the Museum of Modern Art

A decade ago, MoMA acquired 14 video games—and kicked off a new era for the collection. Today there are 36, and many are in the exhibition Never Alone.

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fatima khan
fatima khan
A brand new writer in the fields, Fatima has been taken under my electric spark's RGB- rich and ensures she doesn't engage in excessive snark on the website. It's unclear what command and Conquer are; however, she can talk for hours about the odd rhythm games, hardware, product reviews, and MMOs that were popular in the 2000s. Fatima has been creating various announcements, previews, and other content while here, but particularly enjoys writing regarding Products' latest news in the market she's currently addicted to. She is likely talking to an additional blogger with her current obsession right now.

Nethack is among the top (and continuing) game projects. It first came out in 1987 and was a fork from an earlier game, Hack, developed by Mike Stephenson, Izchak Miller, and Janet Walz. The game was based on an open-source model that allowed anyone to make their version. However, only participants of the DevTeam could modify the source code.

Over time, the DevTeam has grown with talented coders from the community. After more than thirty years, it has an undetermined number of members. They seem to enjoy the mysteries. In its time, NetHack has grown to become more complex, managing its many new elements. The DevTeam is regarded as the collective god of coding by the game’s dedicated community. Check out the NetHack forums, and you may find the term TDTTOE, which stands for The DevTeam thinks of everything.

NetHack’s new role-playing technology is unlike anything else in the market, nor has its progress been. It’s an individual project from every angle and has received the attention it deserves. It’s a unique project from all angles. The Museum of Modern Arts began its videogame collection in 2012. At the time, it was mentioned that NetHack was to be added later (though it wasn’t included in the initial selection of 14 titles). The time has come: NetHack has been added to the Architecture and Design department’s collection and will be featured in the Never Alone exhibit from September 10 to 11.

“A long time ago I got involved with the development of NetHack, a very early computer role playing game, and soon joined the DevTeam, as we’ve been known since the early days,” Collet writes. “I was very active for the first 10 years then progressively faded out even though I am still officially (or semi-officially as there is nothing much really ‘official’ about NetHack, but more on that later) part of the team.”

Collet writes amusingly about the various stages of amazement he experienced before pondering “these 35 years and what they meant to me, the team, the gaming community and, finally the open source community.”

As Collet describes it, NetHack was and still is “one hell of an anomaly” and incredibly influential within gaming. However, he also points out its groundbreaking approach in other areas: “It is also one of the very first and perhaps the very first software projects to be completely developed over the Internet by a team spread all over the world (hence the word “Net” in NetHack).

Here’s Senior Curator Paola Antonelli: Are video games art? They sure are, but they are also design, and a design approach is what we chose for this new foray into this universe. The games are selected as outstanding examples of interaction design-a field that MoMA has already explored and collected extensively, and one of the most important and oft-discussed expressions of contemporary design creativity. Our criteria, therefore, emphasize not only the visual quality and aesthetic experience of each game, but also the many other aspects-from the elegance of the code to the design of the player’s behavior-that pertain to interaction design. (via kotaku)

(Image credit: tk-337 on Reddit)

Similar to the DevTeam, quickly got used to taking user feedback, “suggestions, bug reports and bug fixes from the online community (mostly over Usenet at the time) long, long before tools like GitHub (or Git for that matter), BugZilla or Discord were even a glimmer of an idea in the minds of their creators.”

Collet claims he was in his late 20s when he started working on NetHack, and from the distance of now, he realizes the lessons he learned “as much, or more” from the project than the previous jobs he had.

In looking back on what has happened over time, and knowing that NetHack will be showcased at Moma, Collet makes an observation that is sure to warm any programming hearts: “I learned that you should always write clean code that you won’t be embarrassed by, 35 years later, when it ends up in a museum.”

The post concludes with Collet’s salute to the enjoyment that everyone who has been involved in the making of the game has had since the course of its development:

“We didn’t set any ambitious goals; we did not attempt to change the world or change anything; we enjoyed the game Hack and thought of ideas that we thought would make it more enjoyable, explored these ideas, hung out with like-minded individuals, and decided to band together. We had fun all the way.

“I am incredibly grateful to have been part of that adventure. It had a huge impact on my life and I am absolutely thrilled to see the game and the team recognised in such spectacular fashion.”

There’s now a page on Moma’s website that’s sole objective is to show the screen of NetHack that welcomes visitors with an incomparable message: “Hello, Yoghurt! Welcome back to Ermenak’s used armor dealer!”


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