190: Preserving Our Playable Past

Preserving Our Playable Past

Gaming has always prioritized the present at the expense of the past. But recent movements in academia and the industry itself have developed unique solutions for preserving our shared gaming history. Rob Zacny looks at how the National Videogame Archive and CD Projekt's Good Old Games are rising to the task.

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It's ridiculous how many of these companies just sit on their back catalogs and abandonware without any concern. Part of what makes people receptive to your product is your brandname and supporting old classics develops that. If someone like Lucasarts were to port an amazing game like Tie Fighter to consoles they'd do a lot to assure people they aren't just milking the Star Wars franchise to death. That they actually give a damn about this stuff.

Yes, you're selling nostalgia and no, you're not going to move a million plus units. But you're going to make the customers you've already got happy and possibly add a few new ones along the way.

It's amazing how many of us have had similar experiences. I can't believe I abandoned all my old books, games, magazines, manuals. What was I thinking? I needed the space, and I wanted the small amount of money I could get, but it wasn't worth it. I could still have an enormous treasure trove of nostalgia to look through, and even if that's all it was, that would be more than enough. I'm a fool.

And so, of course, that's where GOG and what not come in. Maybe we'll eventually see these services expand to new heights. GOG, for one, is really doing what it can and getting better and better. It will be a while before it can replace the treasure trove I threw blindly away, but I don't think anything can do that.

I was especially interested in the point made by the National Videogame Archive guy about re-presenting what made 'classic' RPGs worthwhile to a browsing audience. I would very much like to see how they approached this, if at all. Screenshots of pivotal plot moments from the games (the end of Final Fantasy VII, disc 1... yeah, YOU know the part... might be a spoilerific example)? Screenshots of massively loaded-up inventory screens from Elder Scrolls games?

He makes a good point in suggesting that some games depend on a prolonged attachment to impart their significance upon players. It's about the 50 hours you put into a game, not the sound and video bytes that guide you along the way.

Hey, thanks for the shout-out, Rob. As someone who's long obsessed over the importance of "virtual memories" and video game history, I quite liked your article. :)

I recently scavenged through a pile of old boxes to recover long lost memories of old comics, action figures and games; it was phenomenal though I, like all people, had to throw it away.

With the rising importance of video games and further acceptance over generations, i bet there will be quite a lot of collectors of old games in let's say 25 years. They increase tremendously in value due to their rarity; I can really imagine art-like auctions for extremely rare games. All the people that parted their atari and NES games will be forever regretting their move

I remember the sense of loss I felt when I heard that my brother had garage-sold our Atari 2600, ColecoVision, and all the games. It seemed like such a big deal.

And yet, my Sega Genesis sits in the basement gathering dust, hasn't seen the light of day in years.

Interesting related note, though: just this month, I bought both the Namco Arcade Museum and the Sonic Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360, two collections of older games. And I've noticed that the Wii has releases of older stuff as well (I think they just released some Commodore 64 games). Just goes to show there is a market, and at least a couple publishers have noticed.

Ah, can't believe my beloved CD Projekt got mentioned on the Escapist.

Thanks to them, I could finally buy a second set of Diablo 2 games. And I'm going to buy Baldur's Gate 2. FINALLY. I've played it only once, thanks to my cousin.

Also, I love collecting boxes.

I'm glad I've never sold my books or games. I realised that what I would get for them is nowhere near what they're worth (even the bad ones) and that it's easily a better option to keep them for the occasional time I will play/read them.

That, and I like to have a collection.

eurghhhh.... I threw away all the boxes for my ps1 games but and kept the games in a cd case. I feel empty inside now.

L.B. Jeffries:
If someone like Lucasarts were to port an amazing game like Tie Fighter to consoles they'd do a lot to assure people they aren't just milking the Star Wars franchise to death. That they actually give a damn about this stuff.

I think I would be eternally grateful if they did that.

Excellent article by the way, and it is good to hear that those old stalwarts aren't all being lost in the ether.

My mother also refers to all consoles as "Nintendos". When I bought my 360 her first question was "What kind of Nintendo is that?".

I've heard of the Videogame Archive project before and I think it's a great idea. I think the question of preservation is about more than just nostalgia as well. The game industry is always aspiring to be more like Hollywood, and make games more like films. The film industry is one that takes its own history very seriously. The art of moviemaking has developed over time and film students study that progression intently. There is a certain fascination with the new and current in movies, but there's also a huge thread of tribute, instrospection, and creative dialog between filmmakers.

The history of games is going to be important to gaming as an art form and an expressive medium. If we want the industry to develop in that direction, rather than as just a commercial endeavor, then the preservation effort is absolutely necessary.

I'm surprised to see a conversation about preserving the past of video games without mentioning emulators.

There are emulators for every system imaginable, from consoles to calculators. MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) and MESS (Multiple Emulator Super System) go to great lengths to support hundreds of different systems, including emulating the actual circuitry itself. For the more modern and complex consoles, there are dedicated emulators available, many of which are nearing complete accuracy in their emulation. As for the games themselves, hit up a torrent site and you'll quickly find entire catalogs of old video games available for download.

If PC gaming is what you'd like, there are emulators for that too. DOSBox is great for the really old stuff, while newer operating systems can be supported under VMs like VMWare or Virtual PC. MESS even covers alot of the really old systems, like the Amiga and VIC 20. There's certainly no shortage of emulators available.

Technological obsolescence is a killer when it comes to preserving our history in the quickly evolving digital age, but there is a lot of effort being put forth to keep the past accessible. Sometimes one just has to look in the darker corners to find it.

I joined and I hope people reading this topic will also join http://www.savethevideogame.org/ . It's really a shame that not more is done to preserve the history of this medium.

L.B. Jeffries:
It's ridiculous how many of these companies just sit on their back catalogs and abandonware without any concern. Part of what makes people receptive to your product is your brandname and supporting old classics develops that. If someone like Lucasarts were to port an amazing game like Tie Fighter to consoles they'd do a lot to assure people they aren't just milking the Star Wars franchise to death. That they actually give a damn about this stuff.

Yes, you're selling nostalgia and no, you're not going to move a million plus units. But you're going to make the customers you've already got happy and possibly add a few new ones along the way.

LucasArts is definitely a company that I would love to see on GOG.com. I can't for the life of me see why a publisher like LucasArts wouldn't offer some of its older titles up for a site like Good Old Games.

I mean, really; they're not making any money off the Monkey Island games (one of my favorite game frachises by far), why not put 'em up on GOG and make a few bucks on the side?

just went on GOG. Was a nice trip down memory lane (was surprised by how many of those games ive played/owned at some point). But still, no Pizza Connection 2 :cry:

Abedeus:
Ah, can't believe my beloved CD Projekt got mentioned on the Escapist.

Thanks to them, I could finally buy a second set of Diablo 2 games. And I'm going to buy Baldur's Gate 2. FINALLY. I've played it only once, thanks to my cousin.

Also, I love collecting boxes.

Heh, you should've waited. Circuit City's got Diablo 2 set (all expansions and all in one box) for 70% off. Hehe, can't beat that.

ReverseEngineered:
I'm surprised to see a conversation about preserving the past of video games without mentioning emulators.

There are emulators for every system imaginable, from consoles to calculators. MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) and MESS (Multiple Emulator Super System) go to great lengths to support hundreds of different systems, including emulating the actual circuitry itself. For the more modern and complex consoles, there are dedicated emulators available, many of which are nearing complete accuracy in their emulation. As for the games themselves, hit up a torrent site and you'll quickly find entire catalogs of old video games available for download.

If PC gaming is what you'd like, there are emulators for that too. DOSBox is great for the really old stuff, while newer operating systems can be supported under VMs like VMWare or Virtual PC. MESS even covers alot of the really old systems, like the Amiga and VIC 20. There's certainly no shortage of emulators available.

Technological obsolescence is a killer when it comes to preserving our history in the quickly evolving digital age, but there is a lot of effort being put forth to keep the past accessible. Sometimes one just has to look in the darker corners to find it.

Unfortunately for the emulators and ROMs...owning them is technically illegal if you don't own the hard copy of it. Granted, I highly doubt Nintendo is going to hunt you down and ask to see the hard copy of Gyromite you just downloaded, but the chance is there.

maddog015:

Abedeus:
Ah, can't believe my beloved CD Projekt got mentioned on the Escapist.

Thanks to them, I could finally buy a second set of Diablo 2 games. And I'm going to buy Baldur's Gate 2. FINALLY. I've played it only once, thanks to my cousin.

Also, I love collecting boxes.

Heh, you should've waited. Circuit City's got Diablo 2 set (all expansions and all in one box) for 70% off. Hehe, can't beat that.

Yes, I'm going to buy a game and then pay $10 for shipping costs.

Oh, and see here:

http://www.circuitcity.com/closed.html

maddog015:
Unfortunately for the emulators and ROMs...owning them is technically illegal if you don't own the hard copy of it. Granted, I highly doubt Nintendo is going to hunt you down and ask to see the hard copy of Gyromite you just downloaded, but the chance is there.

True. The point of the article was more about legit, wide range, preservation plans for video games hardware and software.

Preserving video games. A great idea. If this task was bestowed upon me to complete, I would be overwhelmed.

Personally, my mom does the same thing with incorrectly naming things, and I too wish to keep the boxes to all my old games - I do, but they end up taking up more space than they should.

I don't know if it's the factor of nostalgia or what, but having them there and ready in the event I want to revisit the world is wonderful.

Even though I'm an avid user of Emulators and DOSBox, I still have my NES/Genesis, and I still have a DOS machine and a Windows 98 machine (used for things like Mechwarrior 3).

Looking Glass Studios is a company that should be required to have on GOG (Thief, Terra Nova, System Shock 1/2), as is LucasArts. They had wonderful games for a long long time.

ET! Burn it before it crashs the industry again! HURRY!

I think if a games worth playing then it will show up on the virtual console or something like that.

I cant sell any of my video games to many memories even the Silent 4 The Room the game I hate the most still has a spot in the bookcast i made myself with cardboard and ducktape.

I think the reason I gravitated toward the PC back in the day was becouse, unlike my Sega, it had it's own screen. So I could play it while other people watched TV. Also I could get older PC games at MUCH lower prices than any console game.

 

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