The Quagmire of Video Game Preservation.

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Author: Kelly Leblanc
Date: June 2021
From: Information Today(Vol. 38, Issue 5)
Publisher: Information Today, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,139 words
Lexile Measure: 1260L

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For the companion article "Curating Retro Video Game Collections," see the April 2021 issue of Information Today or visit Breaks/Curating-Retro-Video-Game-Col lections-145322.asp.

Video games hold a place of modern cultural significance, and with that comes a responsibility to preserve them and their systems. The video game industry has been thriving and advancing over the past 50 years, spurred on by global adoption. When there are assets that are embraced by popular culture, occasionally mirroring the events of the times we are living in, the call for preservation rises. As the video game industry grows alongside technology, so do the mediums used for games and systems. When an industry is constantly evolving, preservation challenges follow.


Video game preservation is complex, with many moving parts. Preservation efforts can include the physical game, associated ephemera (original packaging, manuals, posters, etc.), the system or platform used for gameplay, accessories (controllers, cables, etc.), and so on. Alternatively, it could also take the form of a binary image of game code or a recording of gameplay.

Another compelling factor impacting preservation is the finite life span of the game system. Not only can it break down, but replacement parts or systems for retro games are becoming increasingly rare and cost-prohibitive, and technicians can be hard to find. For these reasons, game codes and emulators have been used to ensure future gameplay (but not authentically). The use of code and emulators also has some legal implications if licensed code is being used on an unofficial device.

Adding to the complexities, we have the merger of the physical and digital realm through cloud-based services. This is a different type of preservation dilemma because users don't own the...

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