Saturday, January 24, 2015

Video Games and the Curse of Retro

Video Games and the Curse of Retro. Simon Parkin. New Yorker. January 11, 2015.
 Almost two and a half thousand MS-DOS computer games have been added to the Internet Archive game collection (which says that "Through the use of the EM-DOSBOX in-browser emulator, these programs are bootable and playable.") The archive has rescued historical games which are unplayable unless you also have the original hardware.

Video games are more prone to obsolescence than other digital products. When hardware and software change, many games become unplayable. Unlike other digital media, video games rely on audiovisual reproduction and on a computer’s ability to execute the coded rules and instructions. Game publishers may not have an incentive to maintain older games, so they become obsolete.

Britain’s National Media Museum established the National Videogame Archive, which aims to “preserve, analyse and display the products of the global videogame industry by placing games in their historical, social, political and cultural contexts.” The Internet Archive, by contrast, makes games playable online. The games are part of our social, political, and cultural context. “We risk ending up in a ‘digital dark age’ because so much material that defines our current era is immaterial and ephemeral.” This is the motivation for many video-game preservationists: save everything before it’s lost, and let the future decide what matters in the long run.

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