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Preserving Video Games

Preserving Video Games

When I was fortunate enough to visit the Hermitage Museum, previously the residence of Russian emperors – all 120 rooms, mind you -, I never read one disclaimer about the importance of the three million pieces of [stolen] art. If I, or anyone else for that matter, had asked our guide, “Why are you protecting all this art?”, I might’ve been met with a sneering disdain. Instead of answering, she could’ve turned her back on me and continue the walk. After all, no defense is needed. We take for granted the value art has for future generations, or on the reason for preserving it. As Vonnegut might say, “So it goes”.

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So it goes for academic journals and other written works on art preservation as well. No anecdote or parenthesized note indicating the importance of the historic topic at hand. Instead the writer fleshes out the artifact or phenomenon itself. As such, caring for historic objects, as if they are sacrosanct, has become intrinsic to society as a whole.

Hence, society should unarguably permit video games the same right – to archive their rich history, in line with the literary archival process.

mario and pikachu

It is evidently noisome to reflect on the countless times defenses are needed for preserving this medium. When the Museum of Modern Art announced the addition of them in their halls, art journalists saw the opportunity to gravitate towards hyperbole. One of the headlines wrote: “This museum is putting ‘Pac-Man alongside Picasso. That misses the point.” With every traduce uttered in opposition to documenting video-game history, time is wasted having to justify the case for it.

Several weeks ago Super Bowl 50 was held. I have no inclination to watch a sport I did not grow up with, though I admire the tactical supremacy it has in professional team-sports. What I am interested in is the Pokemon commercial during the event.  The world’s most recognizable, lovable mascot, Pikachu, is seen watching a t.v screen with a father and son. The reason this particular Pokemon is given screen-time, alongside a family, is because of his presence in our pop-culture.

pikachu pokemon

Pikachu transcends the medium into pop-culture, on par with what Mario did in the nineties.

Video games are clearly having an effect on our culture. It has been the case for an extended period of time. These cultural expressions are all pieces to help render an image of a past society (ours, that is). If the video game medium were taken out of the equation as representative of our period, the image would be incomplete and thus dishonest. In 2013’s Global Game Market’s Report they noted 1.2 billion of the earth’s 6.4 billion are playing video games.

In the years since that report, both the consoles and games are selling tremendously. As the presence of video games increase in the 21st century, as they did with films in the 20th century, our ability to keep playing them – say, after twenty + years since their release – become more important. It is not enough to store them. Not only do they need to remain functional to play, but they need to function the way they did upon release. This is where the difficulty lies. Computer developers, programmers and coders will be continually needed to upkeep the software and hardware. The people responsible for this process have to be given more resources to insure the proper steps are taken before it’s too late.

Throne of Games

The act of documenting this medium has already proven difficult. These artifacts, which are audiovisual/digital in nature, ask for an amalgamation of hardware, software and peripheral apparatus to remain functional. Hence, this might be a challenging task to execute. But one we must partake in if we ever wish to deliver a clear image of this era.

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