Preserving Digital Games for the Future

Game preservation is an important mission, it’s all about saving the #gamingculture and #history so everyone can enjoy it.

The old game discs share the same risk with audiovisual materials (films and recordings), they are about to perish if no one doesn’t preserve them right for the future generations. The games’ data is starting to corrupt and the used technologies are getting old and unusable. It’s important to get a digital copy of the original game so that the play experience is still possible – but this is a question of copyrights, legality of emulation and resources like funding and data storage. But the game isn’t over yet.

The right time to act is now, because in the following twenty years or less some digital games are lost forever and all there is left is a black hole in the gaming history. Preserving only the game itself isn’t enough either because the rich cultural influence around the game should also be recorded. That might include the fan base reactions, memories and creations, different databases and what the development process and marketing included. All the games should be taken into consideration because even though the game wasn’t a blockbuster it could be an important milestone in the game development history. For example a game called ”The Smurfs Tour the World” is so rare that only less than hundred copies has been located and many hasn’t played it even though it’s the last commercial European release to the Sega Master System. The players and game collectors start to show interest towards these rare gems because it’s something which they didn’t have time or money to experience when the game was new.

Important authors who could help with preserving games are museums, archives, libraries and of course the developers themselves. Passion and knowledge comes from the game collectors, researchers and hobbyists who have wished that the game collections are visible to the public and that the game history is recorded and teaches something about gaming history for the new players. In Tampere the Finnish Museum of Games is about to open in 2017 and they have gathered 86 000 euros from crowdfunding. That shows the importance of the subject and also gives something new to think about to the museums and players altogether. It’s a chance to discuss about games and share the love towards the hobby.

How should the preserved digital games be presented? There are different options coming from the ones who rely on the nostalgic home-sofa or computer corner -feeling and some, who are more open to experience games in complete different space and maybe even crush the conventions. Everyone agrees that games are not supposed to be in the dusty shelves, it’s all about fun and interactive experiences. This notion is considered worldwide in game museums which offer arcade cabinets and arrange game-related happenings like celebrating the anniversary of some game series or creating new games in game jams. Nowadays museums aren’t places where people just watch silently and walk around.

The players who want to share their knowledge about gaming history can join in different voluntary tasks like wiki-based writing projects to actual donation of games and other events related to gaming. By visiting in a game museum and following the news in the field of game preservation, it’s also possible to learn more about the subject and show interest towards the topic.


More about Game Preservation:

The Finnish Museum of Games:

Barwick, J. et al. 2011. Playing Games With Cultural Heritage: A Comparative Case Study Analysis of the Current Status of Digital Game Preservation. Games and Culture vol. 6 (4), 373-390.

Lowood, H. (ed.) et al. 2009. Before It’s Too Late: A Digital Game Preservation White Paper. American Journal of Play (Fall), 139-166.

Swalwell, M. 2013. Moving on from the Original Experience: Games history, preservation and presentation. DiGRA 2013 proceedings. Atlanta, USA.

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