Editor's note: This article is the opinion of the writer and not necessarily that of the Daily Lobo.
Video game preservation is a relatively new concept. It wasn’t until the preservation of other types of media (such as movies, television shows and/or music) in which consumers started taking video game history seriously.
Most video games created throughout history are no longer accessible to study and play. This is because interactive media is a quickly evolving industry. Games that are merely a year old are considered outdated today due to the constant development of new technology.
Older games are hard to come by because developers would throw out source code, computers and even the games themselves. An example of this is the mass burial of video game cartridges, consoles and computers in Alamogordo, New Mexico. These artifacts were buried in 1983 and weren’t discovered until 2014.
While finding games, source code, computers and consoles are important, these artifacts are only part of the story. To know how the games were made, advertised and sold, source materials (such as artwork, interviews, reviews, packaging, advertising and internal documentation) must be preserved.
Frank Cifaldi, the founder of the Video Game History Foundation (VGHF), is one of the pioneers of video game preservation. The VGHF was created in Feb. 2017 and since then has scanned millions of documents and data devices.
The current focus of the VGHF is to preserve data stored on media formats not meant for long-term storage (like CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, EPROMs and magnetic disks.) Their secondary focus is on archiving rare materials that are difficult to obtain or, in many cases, are considered one-of-a-kind.
According to their website, the VGHF maintains a blog to show video game preservation in action as well as to contextualize why saving certain artifacts is important. Their blog also highlights the importance of each artifact found. While all of this hard work may seem tedious to go through, video games have become a big part of our culture.
Since 2016, video games have been generating over $91 billion in revenue. Video games have inspired movies, books and television shows and are used as a medium of expression, social commentary, charity, education and therapy.
Games have also taught people new languages (like in "Elder Scrolls" and "Bioshock,") inspired career choices in engineering and the arts (say, "Minecraft" and "Dreams,") developed skills such as computer programming and problem solving (such as "Big Brain Academy" and "Corpse Party") and have even helped people pass academic classes (for example, the historically accurate "Assassins Creed" series).
Video games have also introduced new technologies. For many years, virtual reality (VR) was a figment of our imaginations. Now, VR is becoming highly popularized and has changed the way people consume media.
Showcasing the craftsmanship of artists around the world, every video game has a unique story to tell. They introduce interesting themes and develop mechanics that can be used momentarily or for generations to come.
Preserving video games helps us understand the procession from arcade systems, home consoles, handheld and mobile devices. It also helps us understand the changes in gaming culture itself — one such change has been the reduction in difficulty over time.
During the '80s and '90s, video games were considerably more difficult than they are today. They took problem solving, navigation, patience and time management skills. There were no tutorials, no maps to tell you where to go and no options to make the game play itself for you.
These days, video games are part of a throwaway culture and don’t provide much of a challenge. Video games and their importance in culture are not going anywhere, so it's past time to start maintaining a record of this unique media source.
Caitlin Scott is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Caitlin69123118