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Where Games Go To Sleep: The Game Preservation Crisis, Part 2
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Where Games Go To Sleep: The Game Preservation Crisis, Part 2

February 10, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

Gaming artifacts from computers, consoles and arcades have a place to call home -- a home that is now rapidly expanding.

A closer look at the efforts of video game preservationists uncovers an ongoing global effort to properly catalogue and archive all aspects of video gaming. This effort has ballooned just over the past five years with collections housed in major universities and museums.

These collections of artifacts are available to researchers, educators, and many are on display to the general public in special exhibitions. These specific organizations are continuously searching for items from those within the gaming industry, items that are in desperate need of preservation.

Along with the Computer History Museum, California is also home to the History of Science & Technology Collections, and Film & Media Collections, based at the Stanford University Libraries, led by curator Henry Lowood and his colleagues.

Lowood is head of a project established in 2000 titled: "How They Got Game: The History and Culture of Interactive Simulations and Videogames." Lowood is also chairperson of the Game Preservation Special Interest Group of the International Game Developers Association.

Since 2008 Lowood has been a co-principal investigator in a major project known as "Preserving Virtual Worlds", funded by the U.S. Library of Congress, this project includes collaborators such as Linden Labs, The Internet Archive, and several prominent universities.

The purpose of the project is to explore how institutions can preserve virtual interactive worlds and multiplayer environments. The "Preserving Virtual Worlds" project released its final report to the public at the end of August 2010.

Heading east out of California, one can find an expanding video game archive at the University of Texas in Austin. Here, the UT Videogame Archive was established as a collection component of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. The first three individuals to donate to the archive were game industry veterans Richard Garriot, Warren Spector, and George Sanger.

According to archivist Zach Vowell, he's helped establish fourteen collections so far, including Richard Garriot's first game, Akalabeth, and design documents for the Ultima series. Vowell has been going through artifact donation offers and is actively seeking "not only game software and hardware but also documents, art, digital records, promotional material, and business records related to all things video game".

Visitors enjoy some two-dozen coin-op arcade classics on display at the eGameRevolution exhibit at the ICHEG.  The ICHEG currently houses more than 120 arcade games, and an online database for the collection has been established at the ICHEG website.

Journeying to the northeast United States, one can visit an exhibit that recently made its debut at the International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG), established within the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY. The ICHEG claims to hold one of the largest collections of electronic games and game-related historical materials in the world, with more than 20,000 electronic games, platforms and materials.

The ICHEG opened its eGameRevolution exhibit to the public on November 20th, 2010, covering 5,000 square feet, and featuring an authentic video game arcade with over two dozen playable classic arcade cabinets. Various exhibits intricately showcase the beginnings of the gaming industry. Home PC and consoles are also setup to allow visitors to re-experience classic games.

A close-up of an eGameRevolution display case with various video game artifacts at the ICHEG.

ICHEG also maintains Twitter and Facebook accounts with news on ICHEG events, as well as a blog. Preservation efforts are also chronicled on a blog from ICHEG staff members including Jon-Paul Dyson, director of the ICHEG. Its most recent acquisitions have included the donation of personal papers made by Will Wright, and artifacts from the family of late game designer Dani Bunten Berry.

Dyson points out in an ICHEG blog entry that Europe is also advancing in video game preservation efforts, "The Archivio Videoludico in Bologna is building a collection of video games accessible to both researchers and the general public. In Rome, ViGaMus - The Video Game Museum plans to open a public exhibition in 2011."

The ICHEG is also shipping artifacts to Germany, where they will be loaned to the Computerspiele Museum, which plans to open up a permanent exhibition in Berlin on January 21st, 2011. The Computerspiele Museum recently showcased their exhibit design concepts to the public via their website and official YouTube channel.

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