Who should save videogames?

Videogames are disappearing, but whose responsibility is it to save them?

The National Videogame Archive hosts this session following the second NVA summit event. This first public panel with the National Videogame Archive poses that question, exploring how the Industry, Heritage Sector and the public might work together to ensure videogame history isn’t lost.

Tom Woolley, National Media Museum, Jonathan Smith, TT Games, Mike Rawlinson, UKIE (previously ELPSA), XXX, New Statesman.

My Thoughts

Didn’t get all my notes down, was eating for part of it!


Jonathan: I’m the evil side of this argument. Can’t rely on companies to provide the support and preservation for games. Companies change and move on. Companies prove themselves already as not being very good custodians of artefacts their employees produce. One or two platform generations ago very hard to find the materials from that era. Bad for those in the past wondering how thing were done and what to avoid and repeat.

Tom: have done a lot at the National Media Museum, a 6 month project at the foyer to play classic games. Lots of artefacts and have got things like the prototype Guitar Hero guitar, and Eyetoy. Working with the BFI to catalogue their large collection of videogame material.

Mike: Got a very small display of consoles from past times in the offices at UKIE. Keeping an archive helps us to remember and connects us back to history. It is absolutely right and unquestionable that we should have an archive of videogames and interactive entertainment. Impossible to even find our own files when looking back at old information. Need professionals and experts are needed to work without fear or favour to archive these games after a clear remit to do it within their own judgement.

Jonathan: With new devices you get a lot of games which are out for throw away devices. No one has the way to build PS1 games anymore, it isn’t relevant. Music on the other hand has a more standard way of storing the signal/data.

Mike: Backcatelogue is not archiving. It doesn’t add understanding or context.

STATESMAN: Who pays for all of it?

Mike: Just on orphaned works first. Not sure you have it the same way in videogames compared to music and books, you have corporations which usually have a trail compared to individuals. Not saying there is not exceptions but it might be easier.

Audience: More about companies which go out of business.

Tom: Needed to do that for Manic Miner. Took a while, talking to the author of it.

Jonathan: You didn’t really need to go to the author since the copyright was with Bugbyte though?

Tom: It is important to do. On the side of getting permission to display games even if you own them since it is more like displaying a DVD publicly.

Audience: To bring this point in: the British Library gets sent every book to the library. How do you add legislation?

Audience: (Paul from British Library). Legal deposit for voluntary digital deposits are there, but a long way away from deposit of software in general.

STATESMAN: What about the industry complying with it?

Jonathan: We’d comply, we already comply with a lot of legal things.

STATESMAN: What about smaller people?

Mike: It’d be about telling them, making it known more then anything. I am sure they’d comply if they knew about it.

Jonathan: What is a videogame with so many indie videogames and other titles?

Audience (Paul): Also questions need raising over what constitutes a deposit. The source code? assets? what?

Jonathan: Why do the British Library take a copy of every item?

Audience (Paul from Biritish Library): Copyright is a two way bargain. Often the argument is on the first part; the protection of copyright. The second part is access in the future.

Jonathan: Perhaps the government isn’t properly making the second part take place.

Audience: (James Newman): An archive should also include ephemera – things that are not videogames.

Audience: What do you do about the DRM and connecting and patches on current gen titles?

STATESMAN: Is it all down to a copyright repository, or an entertainment hub for the future?

Tom: Space is a premium. Small team working on it, working mainly on donations from the public. Duplication is a big factor, and exhibitions. Acquiring certain display items – question is “Would you put it on display?” for us.

Audience: We are the worst people to say what is important today for the future. Deciding at the point of creation will lose so much stuff. There is physical problems with keeping all that stuff but it is a problem to raise.

(Some random stuff here….)

Audience: The question raised by having games and just licensing it from publishers can be a big issue right?

Mike: This is something we’d have to look at and then solve.

Audience: What also about companies not wanting to give stuff to an archive when it could be accessed?

Mike: Do you seriously think companies will say that? There are archive sections which will not be publicly displayed.

Additional stuff from audience on Let’s Plays, Speedruns, on archiving everything and it being too much and do you need to play videogames to learn about them.

Jonathan: Since it is a National UK based archive it solves some initial questions on scope; aim at the UK industry first.

Tom: Focus should be on the UK but it isn’t strictly UK games.

Jonathan: Why is that?

Tom: Just from what we’ve been donated.

Jonathan: Do the British Library require British made and published, anywhere made and published here, or anyone made and published elsewhere?

Audience BL Guy: A mix of all 3. Anything published in the UK can come to us, but we don’t take everything.

Jonathan: (On value of things) It is vitally important to discuss now and all the time on what is important to save.

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