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After being inspired by a soda machine that stood out against the bleak environment of Batman: Arkham Knight, Marshall University professor Jason Morrissette decided to start cataloguing the different ways video games represent the machines.
“It was so colorful in an otherwise gloomy corner of Gotham City that it caught my eye,” Morrissette explains to Waypoint. "It’s remarkable how little details like soda machines—along with any number of other recurring props—can ground a game in a reality we recognize."
Morrissette initially began keeping tabs on the soda machines he encountered by himself, starting the quest around 2016 (which Video Game Deep Cuts highlighted) and posting screenshots to The Video Game Soda Machine Project.
Eventually fans of the project started contributing their own screenshots to the site, which now account for a bulk of the images captured.
Capturing the different ways developers have designed soda machines to avoid spending money on using real-life brands is an interesting part of video game history, and it fuels Morrisson's passion for the project.
He believes that these projects are important when preserving older games in danger of having their servers shut down.
"Without these fan projects, important parts of video game history—and unimportant parts like soda machines—would be lost when companies unplugged the official servers,” he notes.
Morrissette has now incorporated the collection of screenshots into his research in the form of a paper, designed to identify the "depictions of soda vending machines in video games, and analyzing the various roles played by the machines."
Be sure to check out the entire piece over at Waypoint.