User:ThomasW/Notes The quest to save today’s gaming history from being lost forever

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The quest to save today’s gaming history from being lost forever Lhttp://arstechnica.com/gaming/2015/06/the-quest-to-save-todays-gaming-history-from-being-lost-forever/2/ INK

Orland , Kyles (2015) The quest to save today’s gaming history from being lost forever, http://arstechnica.com [Online] Available: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2015/06/the-quest-to-save-todays-gaming-history-from-being-lost-forever/1/ (08.06.2015)


"The very nature of digital [history] is that it's both inherently easy to save and inherently easy to utterly destroy forever."

But paradoxically, an Atari 2600 cartridge that’s nearly 40 years old is much easier to preserve at this point than many games released in the last decade.

“[But] mankind is poorer when you don't know your history, all of your history, and the culture is poorer for it. It doesn't matter if it's games or civil wars or highways or government machinations. If you don't have that historical context, you make poorer decisions, you make the same mistakes again and again, and you end up with an eternal present. You don't understand where things are and where they're going, because you're constantly in the now."

Frank Cifaldi told Ars. "Keeping an offline game safe is pretty easy, but what do you do for FarmVille, a game that is constantly updated, to the point where Zynga manipulates it server-side?

"When you're seeking to preserve a historic house, there may be layers, it may have been lived in by many different people. Mount Vernon had been lived in by George Washington's descendants, so they made a decision to restore it to George Washington’s time and erase this later history. Do you make the same kind of decision with games?"

"For that convenience [of automatic updating], we lose a lot of what you might call accidental ambient archiving," Scott said. That's the kind of archiving that happens when players store copies of old cartridges or discs in their attic, where they're eventually recovered as a static record of the digital times. In the near future, it's going to be difficult to find people who held on to purely digital games on their hard drives and much harder still to find unaltered launch-day versions that haven't been overwritten by these automatic patches.

That problem will only become more common as games continue their seemingly unstoppable transition from static physical objects to ongoing services provided through a centralized server.

He's heard stories at conferences of developers who, "when they finished the game, they just wiped the hard drive of the work machine and set it up for the next project. That's all that intermediate work, gone."

"Often when working with companies, it comes down to finding a passionate individual in a company who will work with you,"


The NES is only about 30 years old. We’re talking about 100 years out—how many of them will be operating?" said Dr. Henry Lowood, curator for the History of Science & Technology Collections and Film & Media Collections in the Stanford University Libraries. "Personally... I think the hardware super-specific solutions are dead ends for preservation. The kinds of equipment/hardware we have, the way they’re manufactured, just have a very small likelihood of surviving for super long periods of time.”

The entire catalog of Xbox Live Indie Games may become totally unplayable if Microsoft doesn’t remove those titles’ required online authentication check before shutting down those servers.

Because of the way DMCA and also corporate decisions have handled these situations, because institutions can’t legally work on this stuff, a library can’t grab a game [off its original console] or do something at the moment,' Lowood said. "We really can’t prepare for it, we can't analyze it, see what’s needed, if we were thinking about some sort of emulation solution or what kind of hardware is needed. We can’t even address the problem, because their decision to remove the game is binding as far as any sort of cultural institution is concerned. We don’t have a legal way to sort of work around that. That's a real big problem."

"Circumvention for these limited purposes, modifying your games or consoles for this particular purpose, is not going to harm [the publishers],” Stoltz said. “In fact it's going to just increase goodwill between the game publishers and the consumers.”

Playing an archived copy of World of Warcraft in 50 years could be a pretty lonely experience...

"How do we play World of Warcraft 50 years from now if no one [else] is playing World of Warcraft?"

For situations like this, historians say preserving contemporary ephemera that captures the current experience of playing the game might be more important than preserving the actual client/server code itself.

Lowood said. That means saving things like press accounts, screenshots, "Let's Play" videos, and other bits of the lived experience of players. ICHEG’s massive collection of thousands of video game magazines goes to this kind of effort.

"If you want to know how the game was played in 2014, you will need documentation about how the game was played in 2014," Lowood said. "Having the game available to you in 2064 so that you can play it yourself won't tell you anything about that. It just tells you how you, 50 years later in a completely different environment, will play that game."

"How do you preserve a record of baseball? You might collect written reports about games, videotape of gameplay. You're not keeping alive the game itself, but you're keeping alive a record of it,