Library of Congres

Preserving Our History Of Videogames

(Editors note: yeah, it seems like we're really on a videogame kick here at BlogCampaigning. If you're not feeling the vibe, we'll be back with more social media PR/posts later this week. But stick aroudn around for the videogames, because they're important.) You can tell the growing importance of a medium and its social acceptance if people deem it necessary to conserve it for the generations to come. It took a while for film – in the case of Australia even until the 1950s – with the consequence of the majority of the early works being irrevocably lost. The only idea we have of early television is because of contemporary witnesses or documents; the actual shows though are lost forever as most of them were live broadcasts and there were no means to record them – history forever carried away by the airwaves.

In order for videogames not to meet the same fate, academics at Nottingham Trent University have moved to form the United Kingdom's First National Videogame Archive.

From the press release (via Kotaku):

In addition to a treasure trove of consoles and cartridges, the archive will collect and gather a broad range of items from across the industry. It will encompass the wider cultural phenomenon of videogames by documenting advertising campaigns, magazine reviews, artwork and the communities that sustain them - the overall aim being to collect, celebrate and preserve this vital cultural form for future generations.

Dr James Newman, from Nottingham Trent University's Centre for Contemporary Play, said: "The National Videogame Archive is an important resource for preserving elements of our national cultural heritage. We don't just want to create a virtual museum full of code or screenshots that you could see online. The archive will really get to grips with what is a very creative, social and productive culture."

Sweet! The Library of Congress has actually been working on something similar for a while now. Together with a consortium made up of Stanford, the University of Maryland and the University it even proposed the idea of videogame canon, the results of which were revealed last year.

Game preserving is a really fascinating topic, especially considering the rapid hardware development. Remember 5¼ disks? Would you know where to get functioning drives? Even if one was able to locate the hardware the problem remains that one day it will break, no matter what. A fact that certainly makes a case for – unfortunately illegal – emulation. But then again isn't part of the authentic experience also to play games on the hardware they were intended for? A keyboard certainly can't emulate the awkwardness of an Intellivision controller…

And what about MMORPGs? Here preserving the code isn't the problem, but preserving the actual interactions of the players – the really interesting stuff – is pretty much impossible. How did people use certain games? How did they collaborate? What does this tell us about the society/ country/ class they came from? All these elements that transcend the actual gameplay and therefore are most interesting to analyse might also be lost forever. Any ideas what to do?