January 22, 2022

University of Michigan Library: “A New Frontier: Preserving Computer and Video Games”

From the University of Michigan Library News:

On a normal day, during a normal year, the University of Michigan Library’s popular Computer & Video Game Archive is abuzz with activity.

Since its establishment in the 1970s, the accessible, multipurpose archive has offered students, staff, faculty and the general public a space to take a break, study, conduct research or play games among friends.


Located in the basement of the Duderstadt Library on U-M’s North Campus, the CVGA has continued to maintain its dual mission of providing users access to their game collection while also preserving them for future research and scholarship. The interactive archive includes a variety of video, board and card games, as well as gaming consoles, microcomputers, displays, game controllers, supporting print materials and more.

From the Atari 2600 (1977) and the Nintendo Entertainment System (1985) to the first four out of five PlayStation consoles—to name just a few—visitors can choose from more than 60 unique systems and 8,000 games available for research and play.


According to [Val] Waldron, [manager of the Computer and Video Game Archive], older PC games have a lot of game patches, updates and workarounds that are hanging out on the internet on obscure websites that may not be there for much longer. Prioritizing these games means searching for all the components and contents that make the game run—or at least run well.

Waldron says while there are other archives that are working on preservation initiatives, those looking to preserve an entire game rather than just the software are few and far between.

“There are a few experts or specialists at other universities, but there isn’t a lot of known work or discussion around the formal archival process for these games,” she said.


To learn more about playing games online, check out the CVGA’s online games page and research guide for ideas on how to play classic games online for free, how to play board games online with your friends, and more.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.