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Is Saving Video Game History A Waste Of Money? This Senator Thinks So

Is Saving Video Game History A Waste Of Money? This Senator Thinks So

December 22, 2011 | By Frank Cifaldi

Spending money to preserve the history of video games is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

That's according to U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, who identified a $113,277 grant issued to Rochester's International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG) as being among 100 "unnecessary, duplicative and low-priority projects" that the federal government spent money on in 2011.

"Video games, robot dragons, Christmas trees, and magic museums. This is not a Christmas wish list, these are just some of the ways the federal government spent your tax dollars," Coburn wrote in a statement, referring readers to a report [PDF format] attempting to call out wasteful federal money spending.

The grant, issued in May, was given to establish best practices for conserving electronic artifacts for museums, libraries, and other organizations, in an attempt to help save game-related items that are in danger due to the volatile nature of electronic media.

"If we do not act now, many of the early electronic games and the record of their influence on society will be lost," Center director Jon-Paul Dyson wrote in response.

"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 is becoming obsolete."

The ICHEG has been home to several high profile donations in 2011 alone, including but not limited the personal papers of home video game inventor Ralph Baer, a substantial archive of video game material from Microsoft, and the personal collection of Sierra co-founders Ken and Roberta Williams.

From Senator Coburn's "Wastebook 2011" report.

Gamasutra and its contributors have been involved in donations as well. A nearly complete catalog (including some very rare early issues) of our sister publication, Game Developer magazine, was donated by us back in May. Additionally, Gamasutra contributor Kevin Gifford donated his unprescedented collection of over 8,000 computer and video game magazines. Also, this author organized the donation of the Computer Gaming World archive, consisting of a near-complete 1982 through 2006 run of the magazine, as well as over 1,000 computer games sent to the publication for review over its lifetime.

The Center received an additional grant in August from Rochester's Excellus BlueCross BlueShield to further the organization's growth and development, which could see the museum hosting conferences and granting fellowships to further promote the advance of video game history as an academic pursuit.

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