There are numerous reasons to preserve, conserve, restore, collect, and document the history of video games.
- intellectual property.
- prominent agents in our visual, sonic, and material cultures.
- evidence of the history of games, play, and media.
- technologies of computer, television, and film history.
- products of business, industry, innovation, invention and creativity.
- active elements in education, training, teaching, and learning.
- vital components in everyday communication practices, collective memory, and personal histories.
- our past, present, and future.
- our cultural, social, and technological heritage.
Despite such justifications, our technological cultural heritage is not insured. The onscreen immersive, interactive, and dynamic virtual world of the game, like all digital technology, is not immune ageing, decay, damage, deterioration, and obsolescence. Cultural institutions (museums and university archives), organizations, and private collections are dedicating time, thought, space, resources and labor to help safeguard the history of games for future generations. At the moment no collaborative network or organization exists to coordinate national preservation efforts across the diverse range of people and practices currently working to manage the longevity of games.
To help inform visitors to our website on the practices and perils of game preservation we have provided a number of resources below. We encourage you to follow the links provided so that you can learn more about game preservation.
If you represent an institution involved in the game preservation or are writing on the subject please contact us so that we can add your information to this page.
Resources on Game Preservation
Mary Laskowski and David Ward. “Building Next Generation Video Game Collections in Academic Libraries.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship. Vol. 35. No. 3. May 2009, pp. 267 – 273.
Henry Lowood (editor) and Devin Monnens, Zach Vowell, Judd Ethan Ruggill, Ken S. McAllister, Andrew Armstrong (authors). “Before It's Too Late: A Digital Game Preservation White Paper.” American Journal of Play. Vol. 2. No. 2. Fall, 2009, pp. 139 – 166.
Henry Lowood. “Playing History with Games: Steps Towards Historical Archives of Computer Gaming.” Presented at the Electronic Media Group Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works Portland, Oregon. June 14, 2004. Available @ http://aic.stanford.edu/sg/emg/library/pdf/lowood/Lowood-EMG2004.pdf
Henry Lowood. “Shall We Play a Game: Thoughts on the Computer Game Archive of the Future.” BITS OF CULTURE: New Projects Linking the Preservation and Study of Interactive Media, Stanford University, October 7, 2002.
Jerome McDonough and Robert Olendfor et al. “Preserving Virtual World Final Report,” Library of Congress’s National Digital Information Infrastructure for Preservation Program. August 31st, 2010. Available @ http://www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/17097
Rochelle Slovin. “Hot Circuits: Reflections on the 1989 Video Game Exhibition of the American Museum of the Moving Image,” The Medium of The Video Game. Mark J.P. Wolf (Ed.). Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001, pp. 137 – 154.
Melanie Swalwell. “Towards the Preservation of Local Computer Game Software: Challenges, Strategies, Reflections.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. Vol. 15. No. 3. August 2009, pp. 263 – 279.
Megan A. Winget and Murray, Caitlin Murray. “Collecting and Preserving Videogames and Their Related Materials: A Review of Current Practice, Game-Related Archives and Research Projects.” Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. Vol. 45. No. 1. 2008. pp. 1 – 9.
Preservation Initiatives, Game Labs, and Archives
- American Classic Arcade Museum
- American Museum of the Moving Image
- Computer and Video Game Archive, University of Michigan
- Game Preservation SIG/Digital Game Canon
- How They Got Game, Stanford University
- International Arcade Museum
- The Stephen M. Cabrinety Collection in the History of Microcomputing at Stanford University
- Preserving Virtual Worlds, Library of Congress
- The Smithsonian, National Museum of American History. The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. The Ralph H. Baer Papers.
- Strong National Museum of Play, International Center for the History of Electronic Games
- The University of Texas as Austin, Videogame Archive
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Gaming Initiative
- The University of Michigan Computer and Video Game Archive
- Video Game Preservation SIC of the International Game Developers Association
William A. Higinbotham
After reading an instruction manual that accompanied a Systron-Donner 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 »