The National Film and Sound Archive are still carrying on with their mission to preserve Australia’s excellent legacy in video games. I recently took part in a small video interview talking about their mission, which is a perfect opportunity to revisit the question of what games Australia should be saving next.
In case you missed it, the National Film and Sound Archive announced they were preserving 8 games back in 2019. Those games were:
- The Hobbit (Beam Software, 1982)
- Halloween Harry (Interactive Binary Illusions / Sub Zero Software, 1985/1993)
- Shadowrun (Beam Software, 1993)
- L.A. Noire (Team Bondi, 2011)
- Submerged (Uppercut Games, 2015)
- Hollow Knight (Team Cherry, 2017)
- Florence (Mountains, 2018)
- Espire 1: V Operative (Digital Lode, 2019)
All sensible choices, and a great selection from the last few decades. But now that those games have been saved, what should the NFSA move onto next? That question was put to me by the storytellers behind Good Shout, a Canberra-based group of journalists and videographers.
So, what games should be saved? Let me make a case for the following:
EA Cricket 97: Ashes Tour Edition
I’m always going to go into bat for virtual cricket. But there’s some good arguments for why a cricket game is worth preserving. Firstly, while cricket might not be the “national sport” as it once was, it’s still definitely historically important to the Australian ethos.
Also, Channel 9 has a video in their vault somewhere of Richie Benaud and Kerri-Anne Kennerly promoting the game in the most awkward way possible, which included Kerri-Anne wearing a giant cricket helmet while holding what looked like a Gravis joystick.
Krush, Kill ‘n’ Destroy, Dark Reign
Both RTS classics, and both still playable today. Dark Reign still has a little community keeping the game’s multiplayer scene going, while Krush Kill ‘n’ Destroy was re-released on Steam recently, and there’s a new trademark out for the series too.
But why go through the effort of preserving them? I think it’s because it shows how you apply a quintessentially Australian touch to global trends. RTS games were massive in the mid to late ’90s, thanks to the success of strategy games generally (Civilization, Command & Conquer, StarCraft, Warcraft 2). Auran and Beam Software’s effort both shipped in 1997, both to commercial success. But there are some stories still floating around online of how the Dark Reign development was far less rosier than people might have known.
Also, some people might remember the time Dark Reign was re-released for the Xbox 360 with Activision’s blessing.
Given how well Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection did, maybe Dark Reign is ripe for a remaster. What do you say, Activision?
The unreleased Mad Max game
It’s an absolute shame that this never got released, although the Mad Max movie it was a tie-in for would eventually get its own open-world game. Mark’s story on the Melbourne House production that was eventually cancelled is incredible. Grab a cuppa and enjoy one of the most incredible tales from Australian development, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it 1000 per cent is the sort of project that our national institutions should be archiving.
Untitled Goose Game
Seriously, I don’t think anyone needs much convincing on why The Goose should be archived. It’s also helped by the fact that it would be functionally a lot easier for the NFSA to archive than, say, games from the ’80s or ’90s, or something in VR.
Still an incredible production from Matt Trobbiani. If you’re thinking about preserving a wide range of Australian games, it’s important to showcase Australian successes from different points in time.
The rise of indie games is definitely a talking point in the Australian market, since that’s what the majority of local developers were forced into when major publishing houses abandoned Australia after the global financial crisis. Many developers were left on their own without the larger teams or support networks, and some creators found a way to break through and enjoy global success nonetheless.
Hacknet and Antichamber are two indies that immediately spring to mind, albeit from different periods. Both games are still incredible today, and the story of Hacknet in particular — as well as what happened to a game made by Trobbiani’s best friend — is absolutely worth a read.
Ashen (2004, N-Gage)
Did you know that Aussie studio Torus Games made an FPS for the Nokia N-Gage, of all things? Well, they did. You can see some gameplay of it above. There’s obvious limitations, but if you wanted a ’90s-style shooter on the N-Gage running at about 15fps max, Ashen worked.
From a preservation standpoint, the challenges around restoring and making a N-Gage game playable is totally the National Film and Sound Archives’ jam. It’s more complicated than something newer that can just run on an emulator, of course. But it’d make a great physical addition as an exhibit, and showcase some of the role Australian studios played in the early ’00s era too.
Anyway, that’s just a very short list of the next crop of games the NFSA should get started with. There’s plenty more Australian games that should be saved, of course, and I’m sure complications around COVID haven’t helped.
But what would you want the archives to preserve next? What games should be playable for future generations? What games would you consider culturally important to Australia’s national identity, and our identity as game creators? Let us know in the comments!