As part of a new Gamasutra feature, Warren Spector, the designer behind Deus Ex and Epic Mickey, explains why it's crucial that the rapidly disappearing history of games is saved for future generations.
"It's important for all publishers and developers (and even some gamers) to preserve our history for future generations," Spector said, in response to Gamasutra contributor John Andersen.
"Unlike earlier media, like film and television, which were born at a time when historians and academics tended to focus on an established canon of 'important' works and 'great men,' video games were born at a time when the cultural gatekeepers were more open to new ideas, new thinking and new media."
"Where the early history of film and television has been largely lost thanks to industry indifference and academic ignorance, we have a chance to preserve our history, before our pioneers pass away, our design documents, marketing materials and beta builds disintegrate or get trashed, and our hardware deteriorates to the point of inoperability. The fact is, over the last 40 years or so, we've seen the rise of the first new medium of expression and communication since the rise of television and not to preserve our history would be a crime."
But what will prevent this from occurring?
"The biggest threat is indifference. Most people making games see what they do as ephemeral, as not worthy of preservation. Who cares about an early design doc for any one of the thousands of games released each year? Why bother saving a T-shirt given out at E3 to promote the release of a game? Will anyone ever care about the September 1st draft of the schedule for a Mickey Mouse game?"
There's another core issue beyond indifference, says Spector -- the lack of funding for museums and universities to maintain archives.
"The issue is money. These institutions are fighting for survival in a down economy and an age of cuts to academia. They need support. If they get it, our past is secure. If they don't, our history will be lost like that of so many media that came before us."
The full feature, which includes commentary from Richard Garriott, Square Enix, and more, is live now on Gamasutra.