Whatever its origins, gaming has grown into the most profitable entertainment media industry in the world, routinely eclipsing annual revenue generated by the film, television and music industries. By whatever rubric one chooses to define as the inception point for video games, the commercialization of the technology has existed for at least five decades. As such, the industry has accumulated quite a bit of history, but efforts to document and catalogue that history are often met with unique challenges.
“One of the things, long term, for the video game industry is when it wants to take its own history seriously,” Saisha Grayson, curator of time-based media at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), tells The Hollywood Reporter.
“If you have access to the raw material that made a game, you could easily clone that game,” says Frank Cifaldi, founder and director of the Video Game History Foundation (VGHF), a non-profit launched in 2017 aimed at archiving, preserving and disseminating historical video game media. “Our job has been to try and soften the industry into understanding that source code can be an educational resource.”
The analogy we make is that we have deals with various studios where we keep their original materials and camera negatives,” says David Gibson, library technician at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. “It would be similar if we were to get the full source code from these game companies, we would archive them and secure them to create a repository for game companies to come back to.”
The Library of Congress — which currently has “no formal agreement with any gaming company,” says Gibson — archives 7,000 games, most of which were acquired through the copyright registration process, which requires game companies to submit gameplay and descriptions of their titles. “We receive versions of games as they’d be bought at a store,” Gibson says.
Report: “The Video Game Industry is Over 50, Who’s Keeping Track of its History?”
Filed by December 23, 2019on