Contact Information for the William A. Higinbotham Game Studies Collection
Kristen J. Nyitray
Frank Melville, Jr. Memorial Library
Curatorial activities: management and processing of print collections; webmaster; author of web content; supervision of interns and student assistants; grants; exhibits; policies.
Curatorial activities: selection of collections; acquisitions; integration of collections into university curriculum; author of web content; grants; exhibits; policies.
I am an Associate Professor of Digital Cultural Studies and member of the Consortium for Digital Arts, Culture & Technology (cDACT). I am also a founding principal editor with the Journal of Visual Culture and curator of the William A. Higinbotham Game Studies Collection with Kristen J. Nyitray, Head of Special Collections and University Archives.
My research interests are history of technology, videogame history and preservation, material and object culture, visual culture studies, design studies and design history, media governance, and popular culture.
My work on governance and technology is the subject of my first single-authored book, Edited Clean Version: Technology and the Culture of Control (University of Minnesota, 2009). I hope to return to the subject of new censorial practices in the not-so far future. I have also co-edited Popular Culture: A Reader (Sage 2005) with Omayra Zaragoza Cruz and The Object Reader (Routledge 2009) with Fiona Candlin. Additional writing on technology can be found in book collections such as: the MacArthur Foundation Series Learning Race and Ethnicity: Youth and Digital Media (MIT, 2008), AfroGEEKS: Beyond the Digital Divide (Center for Black Studies, UCSB, 2007), The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future (MIT, 2006) and in various academic journals.
I am currently researching a book entitled, Game Saved: An Afterlife History of Videogames and their Preservation. The project aims to be an in-depth, field-work supported study of aging and obsolete videogames that persist in the contemporary period through diverse efforts and institutions working to save their cultural, social, and technological history. Videogames have entered into subsequent phases and contexts that greatly exceed their initial use-value as products and designed game programs. These include secondary markets, the forgotten world of neglect and storage, obsolescence and the general aging process of technology, as well as a rarely discussed phase within which Game Saved operates: the “afterlife history of videogames”. An afterlife history, a multi-disciplinary formulation derived from thought within anthropology, industrial archaeology, design studies, garbage studies, and material culture studies, investigates videogames within the contexts of their disposal, ruins and remains, and preservation and conservation. True to its title, Game Saved articulates the recontextualized status of videogames within their afterlife history to document the preservationist strategies and curatorial models at work to safeguard their posterity for future research and cultural heritage. The goal of understanding the disparate modes of preservation currently at work to enable the history of videogames animates Game Saved, a book dedicated not to nostalgia, but to how videogames remain. How the past remains in its multifarious forms and resuscitated “old” ones is this book’s focus and within it we explore the diverse “component parts” of videogame history, scattered across its past and present topography, as they are revalued, rebuilt, recontextualized, and assigned new life. Work that has pre-empted this project has appeared in journals such Vectors, Journal of Visual Culture, Design Issues, Design and Culture, and Cabinet.
What I absolutely love about this project is that I get to travel the U.S. (like on American Pickers!) and spend time handling the “stuff” of videogame history at national museums, University archives, within micro-museums (a term I borrow from Fiona Candlin) and exhibitions, and at a certain landfill in Alamogordo, NM (although the famed Atari products are long buried and out of reach)! With camera in hand, I also stalk old arcades snapping shots of ageing games on their last joystick. Having moved to New York from Santa Monica, I’ve had to trade in my beach cruiser and pound the beat in my Adidas.
In my leisure time I collect vinyl records (mod, 60s beat, bubblegum, and powerpop), DJ, and support Leeds United— “Until The World Stops Going Round.”
William A. Higinbotham
After reading an instruction manual that accompanied a Donner Scientific Company analog computer, William Alfred Higinbotham was inspired to design Tennis for Two, the first computer game to utilize handheld controllers and to display motion. It was also the first game to be played by general public, in this instance, attendees of “visitors day” at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in 1958. Learn More »