Smithsonian Makes Another Push on Preserving Video Game History

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Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Smithsonian Makes Another Push on Preserving Video Game History

It would be easy here to scoff at the notion of "video game history." After all, this is an industry that's basically only existed for about 40 years or so, give or take, and depending one where exactly you start counting forward from. In that time, however, we've seen a lot of big moves come and go, and an industry go from "things losers do in their parents' basement" to "things you can actually make a decent living doing." The Smithsonian, meanwhile, is making another step into the field, protecting the past of this still-young industry.

More specifically, it's come to the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, which has launched a new plan to preserve the history of video game developers. Known as the Videogame Pioneers Initiative, it's an effort to preserve gaming history with attention to oral histories, assorted documents, and similar matter.

The announcement of the new initiative came at the DICE Summit, which is one of the biggest such events for the game industry around. From there, it's suggested that the concept will grow and move to protect more of the industry as we go. While some of gaming's greatest figures have passed on, like Ralph Baer, there's still plenty of room left to preserve history.

Indeed, one of the biggest problems may be in copyright law. The concept known as "abandonware" represents one of the biggest potential issues to preserving gaming history. Some games were produced by companies that have long since gone out of business, or have been purchased or repurchased, sometimes in pieces, over the course of years to the point where the original copyright holder either doesn't exist or is unknown. These games have a serious potential of simply fading away in a tangle of rights issues.

Thankfully, efforts are being made to preserve these titles, and one of the leaders in this field is the Library of Congress itself. Back in 2012, its Game Canon list boasted around 3,000 titles, as well as 1,500 strategy guides, including the original source code for the game "Duke Nukem: Critical Mass" for PlayStation Portable. Several other such initiatives exist and are helping keep games alive.

The idea that gaming is an art form is gradually gaining acceptance, and as such, the idea of preserving said games is only more important. We've still got a long way to go, and sometimes the laws designed to protect rights holders are actually damaging the entire medium, but with clear progress toward an end goal of protection, we'll likely reach that desired point.

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