- Ludic Cartography. Mapping Gamespaces
- Past Projects
- Preserving Virtual Worlds
- Research and Publication
This post is a distillation of some current thoughts on game preservation (extending to software preservation) that arose from a presentation I gave at Stanford two weeks ago. Video of that talk is here. The discussion in this post is a little more advanced and focuses mainly on the last 10-15 minutes of the talk. I have also posted a link to another presentation I gave at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in February. This earlier one is exclusively about the issues with standard game preservation. If you are unfamiliar with this whole topic, definitely check it out.
TLDR; The current preservation practices we use for games and software need to be significantly reconsidered when taking into account the current conditions of modern computer games. Below I elaborate on the standard model of game preservation, and what I’m referring to as “network-contingent” experiences. These network-contingent games are now the predominant form of the medium and add significant complexity to the task of preserving the “playable” historical record. Unless there is a general awareness of this problem with the future of history, we might lose a lot more than anyone is expecting. Furthermore, we are already in the midst of this issue, and I think we need to stop pushing off a larger discussion of it.
This article was originally posted on Special Collections Unbound on September 14, 2015. Special Collections Unbound is a blog showcasing the work done by the Stanford University Libraries, Special Collections Department.
In the ongoing Cabrinety-NIST Project, NIST normally performs all disk imaging, but there is an exception to the rule. When the Stanford fall session begins in late September, a subset of the Cabrinety collection will be used as teaching materials in the Rhetoric of Gaming class. Rather than send the Cabrinety boxes containing these materials to NIST (which is located in Gaithersburg, MD), and risk them not returning in time for the class, I decided to do all disk imaging at Stanford.
One of the more challenging media formats found in the Cabrinety collection are computer cassettes, also known as datasettes. These media carriers can form nightmarish tangles, so audiovisual archivists working with them must maintain constant vigilance to forestall potential chaos.
The Cabrinety “teaching set” consists of 16 boxes containing 666(!) software packages, 60 of which are computer cassettes. The Stanford Media Preservation Lab (SMPL) provided invaluable assistance with capturing data from this obsolete format.
The following is a guest post by Christopher Fox, a term employee at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). For over six years, Christopher has provided NIST's National Software Reference Library project with data entry services and the application development demands that support those services. He just completed his senior year at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, where he earned a Bachelor's in Computer Science. He started working on the video game software part of the Cabrinety Project when the group hit a dead end trying to collect data from gaming cartridges. Since Chris enjoys gaming and found a way to collect save data from older games for his own purposes, he offered to explore and share methods of extracting data from these obsolete formats.
*Disclaimer: Trade names and company products are mentioned in the text or identified. In no case does such identification imply recommendation or endorsement by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, nor does it imply that the products are necessarily the best available for the purpose.
This is a follow up piece to my previous post on how the National Software Reference Library at NIST is collecting data from several different types of gaming cartridges.
A few weeks ago I attended one of the lectures being given at Stanford University as part of the Interactive Media & Games Seminar Series. Every Friday at noon, this seminar presents open lectures for students, staff, and faculty who want a window into the sometimes esoteric world where games and academia collide. I was initially going to summarize the lecture I attended (given by HTGG’s own Henry Lowood!), but as all of these lectures are made available online, it is just easier to copy and paste the links….I mean it makes more sense to provide access to the actual lectures.
Also, if you’re a Stanford student, this seminar is listed as one-unit course BIOE196. So next time you get any grief for playing games instead of studying, you can casually point to this course listing as proof that those two activities are sometimes the same thing.
Raiford Guins and I just received some great news: MIT Press has given the proverbial greenlight to the "Game Histories" book series that we proposed to them. We are absolutely delighted to be the co-editors of this series, which will kick off with two collections of essays, to be followed by a series of monographic studies, probably 2-3 annually.
The first two titles in the series will be Debugging Game History: A Critical Lexicon, which Ray and I have been co-editing, and Zones of Control, co-edited by Matt Kirschenbaum and Pat Harrigan. We expect that these books will serve as foundational collections for game history and the history of military simulation, respectively.
Finally, we expect to begin soon the process of reviewing full book proposals for "Game Histories." The goal is to publish single-authored books in the series starting in 2017, after the two above-mentioned titles appear next year. Of course, the exciting bit in a project like this is seeing what prospective authors come up with. We can’t wait to start!
This month I decided to try and make a giant poster that showed all the different format types that are present in the Cabrinety collection. I've gone through 6,000+ titles so far and found 21 unique kinds of software media. Since I keep discovering more it seemed like the poster would never get done. So instead of waiting for it to be complete and perfect, and possibly too big to ever upload to this site, here it is in all its glory:
I expect the caption text might be too small too read on this version of the poster, so this is what it says:
First Row (L-R): Atari 400 cartridge, Sega Game Gear cartridge, Intellivision cartridge, Commodore 64 cartridge, Vectrex cartridge, Atari 2600 cartridge
Second Row (L-R): ColecoVision cartridge, Atari 7800 cartridge, computer disc (3.5"), Atari 400 cassette, Sega Card
Third Row (L-R): TI-99/4A cartridge, Tandy Color Computer cartridge
Fourth Row (L-R): Atari 5200 cartridge, Sega Genesis cartridge, Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge
Fifth Row (L-R): Computer disc (5.25"), Super Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge, IBM data cartridge
Sixth Row: Sega CD
ASSORTED SOFTWARE MEDIA TYPES FOUND IN THE STEPHEN M. CABRINETY COLLECTION IN THE HISTORY OF MICROCOMPUTING, CA. 1975-1995.
THIS REPRESENTS ONLY A FRACTION OF THE COLLECTION.
Many lifetimes ago I worked for a video game enthusiast magazine called Tips & Tricks. It featured several strategy guides every month and also printed thousands of cheat codes. When the magazine was still alive and kicking, there was a short Wikipedia entry describing it and all of the employees. Upon a recent check I saw that this entry had gone the way of the dinosaur. This was a bit of a letdown, but also a wake-up call that for something to be preserved, someone needs to advocate for its inclusion in the historical record.
Enter Roger Burton, the Editor-In-Chief of Game Losers, a website devoted to covering underreported sports and video game stories. A former reader of Tips & Tricks, he was curious about the history of the magazine, and thanks to the aforementioned lack of information on Wikipedia, he decided to track down many of the old writers and interview them, including yours truly.
So if you are interested in reading about my sordid history as a video game journalist way, way, waaaay back in the day, Burton’s “A Comprehensive Oral History of Tips & Tricks – The #1 Video-Game Tips Magazine” has got you covered.
California Extreme: The 18th Annual Arcade & Pinball Show was held from July 12-13, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, CA. This is a show where collectors who own classic arcade cabinets and pinball machines bring out their wares for the public to play firsthand, giving a new generation of gamers the opportunity to experience very old titles like Space War or Computer Space. It’s an excellent value with all of the machines set to free play, and the cost of entry only $30-40 a day for one adult. The Saturday show ran from 11am until 2am the next morning, so any gamer with the stamina could play for 15 hours (more if s/he paid for early entry.)
The last time I attended California Extreme was about a decade ago, and what I remember most vividly about that experience (aside from the fact that someone had to sleep on the hotel room radiator) was that I played a lot of Slick Shot, and that it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I was expecting. There was space to roam around, and a lot of the machines I wanted to play were open.
I gave a short talk recently at the Society of California Archivists Annual General Meeting, during the panel session, "What the Hell Is It, and What Do I Do With It?: Cataloging Challenging Collections." My talk focused on the challenges associated with working with the Stephen M. Cabrinety Collection, specifically in relationship to the Cabrinety-NIST grant. The slides from the presentation are available on slideshare.
The Stanford University Libraries have acquired the source code files for the first on-line virtual world, MUD1.
MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) was created by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw in 1978 at the University of Essex. It was a text-based multi-user environment inspired by and loosely based on then recent text adventures such as The Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork. MUD remained in continuous existence for over twenty years and also spawned a variety of other MUDS, related classes of games such as MOOs (Multi-User Dungeon, Object-Oriented), as well as 2D and 3D game and virtual worlds. It is still possible to play a version of the game today via the British Legends collection.
The donation of the source code files follows an earlier donation in 2004 of Dr. Bartle's papers related to MUD1, which areavailable for research in the Department of Special Collections at Stanford. With the generous permission of Mr. Trubshaw and Dr. Bartle as the copyright-holders for MUD-1, Stanford will be allowed to provide on-line access to the MUD1 source code files - details will be forthcoming.