GDC Panel Identifies Key Games for Preservation

In a hundred years, will anyone remember Mario?

Hopefully so, if the Library of Congress (pictured at left) succeeds with its plan to preserve digital media. Devised in 2000, the idea is part of a national strategy to “Preserve Creative America” under the umbrella of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP).

Last year the LoC solicited industry input on what types of digital cultural heritage to preserve, and a wide variety of content producers expressed interest, including members of the video game industry.

At this year’s Game Developer’s Conference, Henry Lowood, curator of the History of Science and Technology Collections at Stanford University, along with Warren Spector (Deus Ex), Steve Meretzky (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Stanford humanities researcher Matteo Bittanti, and Joystiq editor Christopher Grant, formed a committee to nominate a list of games they would like to see preserved in the NDIIPP:

  1. Spacewar! (1962)
  2. Star Raiders (1979)
  3. Zork (1980)
  4. Tetris (1985)
  5. SimCity (1989)
  6. Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)
  7. Civilization I (1991) & Civilization II (1996)
  8. Doom (1993)
  9. The Warcraft series: Warcraft: Orcs and Humans (1994), Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (1995), Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (2002)
  10. Sensible World of Soccer (1994)

Lowood spoke of the need to preserve the games:

Creating this list is an assertion… that digital games have a cultural significance and a historical significance.

One of the challenges in preserving games is that the hardware to play many of the games on the list are obsolete and potentially unavailable. But emulators capable of allowing those games to be played are commonly seen as violating the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and a tool for piracy.

– Reporting from Canada, GP Correspondent Colin “Jabrwock” McInnes

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  1. 0
    Starchy says:

    I’m pretty sure there’s a stipulation in the DMCA about the Library of Congress being able to violate the act for archival purposes.

    And what would it take to back up the NES catalog? Like two CDs?

  2. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Having Doom listed as a sort of ‘National Treasure’ would be great 😉

    It does deserve it though, it had as much impact on Video Games as Buddy Holly had on Rock n Roll.

  3. 0
    brokenscope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    DMCA? That ain’t the worst problem they got. Its the fact that consoles are getting more and more complex and thus harder and harder to emulate with software without some kind of access to specifications. The current PS2 emulator is going along smooth but Even with a really powerful computer its hard to play most of the games.

  4. 0
    ash2dust says:

    Why Super Mario Bros. 3 and not Super Mario Bros.? 3 may have been a more fun, more well-developed game (opinion-wise), but isn’t 1 more culturally significant, often being cited as playing a key role in saving the industry from the crash of ’83?

  5. 0
    Alexander Case ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I remember Star Raiders for the Atari 800, it was the first video game I ever played, and definitely merits preservation – as it was, perhaps, one of the first cockpit-perspective space-shooters.

    I’m surprised Pong didn’t make the list though.

  6. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:


    SMB 1 was great for its time,but SMB3 really opened up what you can do with SMB it had a over word and multi forms to turn into it was a huge game turely the most deserving of the 8bit series.

  7. 0
    Jer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    List of other games to be considered: IMO (feel free to add your preferences)
    metal gear,
    Final Fantasy series,
    Super Mario 64.
    Donkey kong.
    Break out.
    Goldeneye 007

  8. 0
    Muetank ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This would be awesome it see video games perserved by the NDIIPP. They seem to have a pritty good list there, but i’ll put up my own just for kicks. (not in any perticular order)

    Pong (due to it just being classic)
    Super Mario bros. (dose this need explanation?)
    Tetris (great time waster)
    Gran Turismo (great car simulation and huge # of cars)
    Half-Life (Epic story line and great mods)
    Metroid (First popular game with female main character)
    Starcraft ( great RTS game that is still very popular)
    Doom (first FPS to start them all)
    Space Invaders (again a clasic)
    Duck Hunt ( first light gun game on a home console)

  9. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    Not all games in a series will be archived,however the best of the series of its class/era.

    So out of SM,SMB1-3 SMB3 would be the best choice.

  10. 0
    Joe Bourrie says:

    This list seems a bit odd. This is about preserving digital media that would otherwise disappear, right? If so, we seem to be jumping the gun a bit on a few of them, since they are still commercially available.

    4. Tetris (1985)
    Dozens of versions of Tetris are still commercially and publically available.

    5. SimCity (1989)
    Not only is the PC version still on store shelves (as part of the Sim Mania Pack (name?) ), but the SNES version is available on the Wii Virtual Console.

    6. Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)
    Available for the Game Boy Advance in any GameStop, and most certainly soon to be on the virtual console.

    I believe the Warcraft Battle Chest is still commercially available as well, though it might be a bit harder to find. Not sure, never looked for it.

    Looking at the list, it seems that this is more of an “award”, a popularity contest, instead of a real attempt at preserving classic games. All of the above games do need to be preserved, but I think there are much more deserving ones to worry about right now, amazing classic games that are disappearing and may never be seen again. Radiant Silvergun should be near the top of that list, as should Seaman, Battletoads, Daggerfall. These are games that aren’t as well known but were miletones in gaming history, for various reasons.

    The way I see it, if it’s an award then call it an award. If it’s about real preservation, look for the games that need to be preserved.

  11. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    “What does Warren Spector have to do with Spore?”

    Ack! You are correct, it should be Deus Ex, not Spore. I goofed.

  12. 0
    Joe Bourrie says:

    Just wanted to note that my above comment was written slightly in haste, the only “American” game on that list is Daggerfall. I could add The Lost Vikings to the list. However, the point still stands that there are rare classics that need to be preserved before we start worrying about preserving the common games.

    Oh well. I already know what this is about and I don’t think it’s game “preservation” at all. Game recognition is about the extent of it. And that’s not a bad thing, just not what they say it is.

  13. 0
    esutman ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    My university (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) recently began a major program in Interactive Media and Game Development, and as part of that, I worked on a project with the school library to begin the Special Games Archive for historical purposes and for student use as examples and resources. Members of my project (not me personally) actually interviewed Mr. Lowood about his work at the collection over at Stanford. What we came up with for prioritization of games is actually a little different than the whole list thing. See, we tried to come up with 50 prime games that were key to the archive, and were so mixed up trying to
    1) survey the whole of the history of games for standout examples
    2) determine among us the exact ordering of each title comparitively
    and 3) pick a single game from a famous series to represent it
    that ultimately it was obvious to us that it’s far too subjective to do this.
    What we came up with was a tier system, that, though far from optimal and a lot less useful in the short-term, is much better at addressing priorities. Basically, a game is scored overall based on it’s merits in the individual areas of Fame/Infamy, Age (we for instance set a threshhold for games at 25 years old, where anything older was worth actively looking for), Rarity, and Quality(note that exceptionally bad also qualifies, e.g. ET for the Atari). I like to call it the FARQ tier system (pronounced “fark you”).

    Anyway, it’s pretty clear that video games are probably the emergin dominant medium, and it would certainly be a total shame to miss the opportunity to document its rise as accurately and faithfully as possible. While I appreciate for the short term truths that certain games should be called out individually for preservation, I disagree severly with their choices. They appear to have gone for personal favorites and games that are of a particular calibur, where they need to be preserving the more historically significant titles. I agree with 1-5, and probably Doom, too, but the entire Warcraft series, but only Super Mario Bros. 3 out of that whole series? And they all upstaged Pong, Asteroids, AND Donkey Kong? This is just more evidence that it’s far too large and far too subjective a task to be done this way.

  14. 0
    Black Manta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Impressive! Some good choices there. Here’s a few other games I’d like to see on that list

    1). X-Com: U.F.O. Defense
    2). Sam & Max Hit the Road
    3). Deus Ex
    5). System Shock
    6). Wing Commander
    4). X-Wing/TIE Fighter (tie)

  15. 0
    Jer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    what definitions are you talking about?

    one more to add to the list
    Prince of Persia (original version, the PC platformer)

  16. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    And I agree that ‘Puzzlers’ should be on that list, represented by Tetris. I suspect that’s because 10 is a nice convenient number to choose.

  17. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    You’re right……………

    In that case, I wonder why Space Invaders isn’t on that list?

    Oh well, I suppose they had to pick the ‘definitive of each genre’ RTS, FPS, Space Shooter, Platform, City Builder and Sports, with special mention to SpaceWars for being the first.

  18. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Jagged alliance series – first game I know of that even bothered to address issues like picking up an enemy’s weapon, and not having the right kind of ammo on hand to use it.

  19. 0
    Joe Bourrie says:

    @GoodRobotUs & Jer
    Super Mario Bros. 3 was also on the list, and it was made in Japan.

    I think the idea is to honor the games that have left a mark on American mainstream culture, which both Tetris and Mario 3 did.

  20. 0
    esutman ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Usually library archives are considered fair use. I believe libraries and schools are provided various allowances. That’s why Stanford and WPI are able to maintain their respective archives.

  21. 0
    Mnementh2230 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think if they’re going to add games to a prestegious list like this, they need to break it down into genres so that games of a similar nature will be judged in comparison to their peers – comparing MechWarrior to Warcraft: Orcs and Humans is just silly.

    Bust it up onto Early games (Pong, Space Raider, Missile Command), and at some cutoff break out into Strategy, RPG, FPS, Racing, Arcade, etc… with different catagories under each of these for console and PC based gaming. That way we’re not comparing Golden Eye with HalfLife. Both are good games (hell, great games), but the experience differs greatly between FPS games on different platforms – mouse/keyboard allows a lot more leeway in what the developers can do because of no mouse-speed restrictions and more buttons available. By breaking things up like this, I think GDC would have a more accurate representation of games that are worth preserving.

    Now how are they going to preserve them so people can play them??

  22. 0
    The Tanooki says:

    Super Mario Bros. 3 in the Library of Congress?…

    I posted a story not too long ago about a committee headed by Stanford University’s Henry Lowood selecting a list of ten games they believed to have the most cultural and historical significance. I skimmed the article to get the basic idea of th…

  23. 0
    Brian says:

    Seriously, they can only preserve so much stuff. I love video games, but once you start listing all the games you like, then it just becomes pointless. You can only include the most influential games. Spacewar! was one of the first computer games, and Tetris and Doom spawned huge numbers of clones and stuff. But seriously, someone actually said Grand Turismo? Duck Hunt? THE ENTIRE FINAL FANTASY SERIES?!? There are way too many games out today, and trying to pick games to be preserved would just start a colossal fanboy war. I know I lost my point half way through, but still… And FFVII sucked…

  24. 0

    […] Finally, here’s a little nod to the good ‘ole US of A.  The Library of Congress is contemplating preserving digital media as part of our national cultural heritage.  While this may be a no-brainer for anyone under the age of 40, it’s a big step in the right direction from the old guard – especially at a time when more and more inane legislation is being introduced to govern gamers. Sphere It […]

  25. 0
    esutman ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m not really sure that’s true. I mean when you consider everything in the National Archives, it’s a pretty massive amount. They could probably pretty easily store a few hundred titles boxed. If they’re just keeping the software, though, the sky’s the limit. Hell, every game software title released before 1990 would probably fit on a hundred-two hundred dollars of HD space MAX. And that’s good for what? at least a decade? I mean, yeah there’s a lot of overhead involved, but it’s not nearly so limited that they can’t grab a copy of Duck Hunt. Oh, and regardless of your opinion, you can’t deny that FFVII had a massive impact on games and culture, especially in the US.

  26. 0
    Randalor ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well, you can deny it all you want. You would be wrong, but you can deny it. And yeah, why not just archive every video game? No point in fighting over it to decide “The most worthy” when, with a decent computer, they could have image files of most games pre-2000 backed up in maybe a month.

  27. 0
    Gate into Blue ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m suprised nobody has mentioned the sims, being the self proclaimed ‘most popular PC game ever’ – and in itself being an ingenious little thing.

    That said, I don’t think that the sims, FFVII or a number of other games that were very influential in the US are going to die out any time soon.

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