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[United States Senator Tom Coburn recently singled out a federal grant to help save video game history as a waste of taxpayer dollars. In this blog post, reproduced from the CHEGheads blog, International Center for the History of Electronic Games director Jon-Paul Dyson argues otherwise.]
Do you think video games are worth saving? We do!
Recently, news reports cited as wasteful spending a $113,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games to preserve video games. We disagree. We believe video games not only are the most dynamic, exciting, and innovative form of media today but also an important form of play and a driver of cultural change.
Games sharpen people’s ability to solve problems and overcome challenges. Games teach people to cooperate and to collaborate in new ways, whether that’s in the same room or across the Internet. It’s no wonder that schools, businesses, medicine, and the military are using video games to train tomorrow’s leaders.
Game designers are also creating great art. Games charm, captivate, and amaze us, from the awe-inspiring wonder of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, to the whimsical fun of Angry Birds, to the subtlety of The Sims. Video games are influencing society just as much as novels did 200 years ago or movies did 100 years ago.
And yet, if we do not act now, many of the early electronic games and the record of their influence on society will be lost. Video games are stored in digital formats that don’t last forever. The lifespan of tapes, disks, cartridges, and CDs is measured in decades, not centuries, and the software and hardware running these games are becoming obsolete.
At the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, we are working to preserve video games and a record of their impact on our society. We have assembled a collection of more than 36,000 video games and related artifacts; we are creating exhibits to tell their history; and we are preserving records of the people and businesses who create these games and the players who love them. In addition to that all that, the IMLS grant is allowing us to establish standards for preserving video games, to ensure we have the hardware and software to access these games now and in the future, and to record video of each of these games
to capture their play.
This is important work. As the IMLS’s Mamie Bittner noted, “Future innovation springs from the hard work and inspiration of the past. Technology changes quickly, and with changes, the work of entrepreneurs can be locked away and inaccessible. Can we imagine how researchers in the 22nd century will view the earliest groundbreaking interactive video? Without the work of institutions like The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games the vitality and imagination of early gaming would be lost to future generations.”
We don’t think this should happen. So despite this recent criticism, we pledge to continue, and even to increase, our preservation efforts in the future. Like great novels, movies, music, and paintings of the past, video games are too important to lose.