By virtue of my profession, I'm a bit of a preservation nut - careers will be built on sources that would be rotting away if it weren't for intense efforts to preserve them, and there's still a large swath of the historical record that's gone forever. The list of lost films from the 'golden ages' of silent film, for example, is staggering, and that's for works created in the 20th century. Luckily for video games, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Maryland, Stanford, Rochester Institute of Technology and Linden Lab have banded together under the auspices of the 'Preserving Creative America' initiative of the Library of Congress. There was even a GDC roundtable on the issue. The project is intended to get 'endangered' and rare games into the proper hands to preserve and archive them - but in a way that will also give a sense of the original experience:
These virtual worlds are actualised in user experiences that are sometimes unique, often social, and always necessary for understanding these worlds. Just as an archived book is of limited use if researchers cannot open its cover and read it, an archived world will be of limited use if researchers cannot visit it. Unless we also develop solutions for preserving user experiences, future generations will have no way to understand how these experiences became such an important part of our culture.
I'll be curious to see how libraries and archives deal with the unique challenges of preserving games in a meaningful sense. I also wonder what sort of access policies will be in place: the trend for print media is certainly to get as much of it digitised or online as humanly possible. This has the dual benefit of making materials more accessible, but also keeping the originals safe; in the face of preservation and access issues, how much do the physical trappings matter?
Save game now [The Brainy Gamer]