Warren Spector on the Challenges of Preserving Video Game History

As part of an overarching feature about saving video games for posterity, Gamasutra managed to corner Junction Point front man Warren Spector on the topic, who has a strong message for gamers, game developers and publishers: It's up to us the preserve game software for the sake of history.

"It's important for all publishers and developers (and even some gamers) to preserve our history for future generations," Spector said, in response to Gamasutra. "Unlike earlier media, like film and television, which were born at a time when historians and academics tended to focus on an established canon of 'important' works and 'great men,' video games were born at a time when the cultural gatekeepers were more open to new ideas, new thinking and new media."

He goes on to say that the early history of film and television has been lost because those that oversaw it at the time did little to preserve it for the sake of history. Media gets old, after all, and if no one is of the mind to preserve it in a modern format or archive it, then it will ultimately cease to exist.

"Where the early history of film and television has been largely lost thanks to industry indifference and academic ignorance, we have a chance to preserve our history, before our pioneers pass away, our design documents, marketing materials and beta builds disintegrate or get trashed, and our hardware deteriorates to the point of inoperability. The fact is, over the last 40 years or so, we've seen the rise of the first new medium of expression and communication since the rise of television and not to preserve our history would be a crime."

Finally, Specter says that the biggest issues facing those that want to preserve the history of video games are indifference to the effort and money. Developers who have access to materials like design documents and early prototypes don't think much about saving it for posterity. Publishers move on to other projects at the speed of light, with monetization (usually) being the only determining factor in saving aging games. Money is a major factor because organizations that want to preserve and archive games, documents, etc. don't get the kind of support they need.

"The issue is money. These institutions are fighting for survival in a down economy and an age of cuts to academia. They need support. If they get it, our past is secure. If they don't, our history will be lost like that of so many media that came before us," says Spector.

The article raises some interesting points about saving video games for posterity, and features comments from Richard Garriott, Square Enix, and others. You can check it out here.

Source: Gamasutra

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