Just Who Is Preserving Gaming History?

Just Who Is Preserving Gaming History?

Old books are collected in libraries. Old art in art galleries. Old music on commercial FM radio. But what are we doing to hang onto our old games?

According to IGN AU, the depressing answer is… not much.

While there may be a bare handful of institutions around the world doing their bit to preserve the games of the past, there’s little in the way of a concerted, industry-wide effort.

Worse, writes IGN reporter and friend of Kotaku Tracey Lien, there’s absolutely nothing being done in Australia to preserve the almost-forgotten gems of our own development history.

This lack of action is due to confusion over who should take responsibility, as Dr. Melanie Swalwell, digital media lecturer from Flinders University, explains:

“Games have fallen through the cracks because no one is sure who should be doing the preservation work. Games get published, so some say they’re publications and that libraries should collect them; to others, games are material artifacts, so they think that museums should collect them. People aren’t sure what games are – if they are material artifacts or if they are something else.”

With disc and cartridge-based games deteriorating with age, and the hardware needed to play them fading into obsolescence, a difficult issue becomes increasingly harder and more vital with each passing year.

Emulation is only part of the solution, particularly as there is far more to learn from gaming history than just being able to play some old games.

So what is the answer? How would you like to see our gaming history preserved for future generations?

The Future of Gaming Past [IGN]


  • Preserving the games themselves is only part of the problem. Preserving the machines required to play them is also necessary and possibly the more difficult and expensive part. It’s this that makes me think we need a National Computer and Gaming Museum. I’ve no idea how to pressure the government into such an initiative, anyone have any ideas?

    • Governments wouldn’t do shit seeing as games aren’t considered to be impactful to society in anyway other than negative (thanks to the media).

      So until games get recognised for what they are, I doubt any government would go to any pains to document their history.

  • Gaming Museum/Library. Bam.

    A museum for all the physical gaming objects and paraphernalia, and a library for publications about games, ie magazines.

  • Well the good news is that when they finally find some one to take the initiative they can aways come and see me, mind you, they better make sure they bring their walled stuffed full and and at least big enough so that it takes two to carry it.
    Then maybe, just maybe I can be enticed into giving up some of my classics in mint condition.

    Personally I think its the responsibility of the library.


  • I can’t really see a public gaming library springing up in the near future. I don’t think such initiatives would gain the necessary support from governments etc.

    I think we’ll only continue to see support for the history of gaming through exhibitions like “Game On” at ACMI last year.

  • I agree that this is an excellent idea – preserving an important part of our culture. A library doesn’t seem adequate for a digital medium…GameOn was an interesting exhibition I attended in Melbourne when it was there a year ago, and I think that’s a step in the right direction.

    The solution lies not only in the preservation of the original cartridges and/or discs, but an ongoing effort to back-up and emulate games.
    This has to be coupled, with permission, with an ongoing project to maintain and rebuild compatible hardware for these games. We can preserve originals, but if one wants to play a game, it’s likely that a modern-made machine with controllers that simulate the original experience are the best long-term solution we’re going to get.

    Publishers, developers – anyone in the industry, for that matter – are the most likely to donate to this cause. Otherwise we’d have to rely on the possibility of a private collector financing it.

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