Mario is Missing! Playing, not playing and preserving videogames

At a time when there are more gaming platforms and titles available than ever before, it might seem unlikely to claim that videogames are disappearing. And yet, despite their apparent abundance and ubiquity, the processes of material and digital deterioration render hardware and software unusable as hard drives fail, discs become unreadable, activation servers are re-allocated and newly released systems offer no compatibility with existing libraries of games and peripherals. Adding to this, journalistic, retail and marketing practices fuel a marketplace of perpetual innovation that rationalises and justifies the rapidity of supersession and obsolescence. Videogames are, without doubt, disappearing and the continued – and accelerating – loss of this material denies future generations access to their cultural heritage and robs the next generation of developers historical reference material.

As Lowood (2009) put it, we must act ‘before it’s too late’. But, what form should this action take? And what is it we are seeking to preserve? Drawing on research conducted for the recently published ‘Game Over?’ White Paper on game preservation, curation and exhibition (Newman and Simons 2018) as well as Best Before: videogames, supersession and obsolescence (Newman 2012), this session explores existing scholarship and practice on game preservation and considers the challenges and opportunities ahead. The session concludes by exploring the ‘Game Inspector’ developed at the UK’s National Videogame Arcade. By shifting away from the dominant assumption that the objective of game preservation is to retain long-term playability and instead treating play as something to be captured and preserved, the Game Inspector offers insights into the mutability, contingency and configurative of videogames and play and seeks to refocus future scholarship and practice.

References

Lowood, H. (2009) ‘Before It’s Too Late: A Digital Game Preservation White Paper’, American Journal of Play, 2(2) pp. 139-166.http://www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/2-2-special-feature-digital-game-preservation-white-paper.pdf

Newman, J. and Simons, I. (2018) ‘Game Over? Curating, Preserving and Exhibiting Videogames. A White Paper’. Available at: http://thebgi.uk/gameoverwhitepaper/

Newman, J. (2012) Best Before: videogames, supersession and obsolescence, London: Routledge.