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  • The Importance of Archiving Gaming History

    If you’re anything like me, you sometimes get nostalgic for the games you played as a child. More importantly than preserving classic games for our own enjoyment, archiving them teaches later generations and honors the industry’s pioneers.


    We can be grateful for people who invest in creating museums and exhibits, such as Berlin, Germany’s new Computer Game Museum (Computerspielemuseum) and the Art of Video Games exhibit, coming to the Smithsonian American Art Museum next year.


    The Computer Game Museum has archived 14,000 games, from the first arcade game to current-day e-sports that are popular in South Korea. Computer hardware up to 2001 is on display chronologically, including the first home video game console, whose inventor is the museum’s patron.


    Smithsonian's Art of Video Games exhibit 


    Taking a slightly different look at video game history, the Smithsonian exhibition “will show the development of visual effects and aesthetics by highlighting influential artists during five eras of technology.” Four game types — combat/strategy, target, adventure and action — will demonstrate video games’ eventual role as a storytelling medium, pop culture’s and international events’ impact on games and games’ reciprocal influence on society.


    The description on the exhibit developer’s site perhaps best sums up the exhibit and the importance of archiving the industry’s intellectual property: “A medium that is still in its infancy, video games have, none the less, cemented their place in society as one of the most expressive, dynamic and powerful canvases of expression in the past century.”


    Similar to movies, which have the American Film Institute in the U.S. to catalog and preserve the classics, video games deserve a counterpart organization, in my opinion. But how should it be done? With vintage consoles hard to come by, what’s the best way to let the public interact with the classic video games? Are museums the only answer? I would love to read your ideas for preserving our industry’s history, which could help shape its future.

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