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Voyage the xx. There are, however, minimal examples of how museums might realize this opportunity. This thesis examines the curation of a local history of Australian videogames for the era of the microcomputer and, in the process, provides an example of how museums can effectively engage with online communities to document and display videogames.
Local game histories form a crucial component of a response to the call for a critical historiography of videogames. Responding to this need, I undertake research on an important chapter of Australian videogame history. Online retro gamer communities have created extensive archives of early microcomputer games, developing systems and procedures for their preservation and documentation.
Through examination of retro gamer sites and other player made artefacts, I develop a novel argument for the importance of player memory in capturing how people experienced videogames and engaged with broader game culture. The importance of personal memories for videogame history is further explored in the case study of the Popular Memory Archive PMA. The PMA website is designed as both exhibition and archive with the intent of engaging online communities in sharing their recollections of s games.
Through an analysis of the PMA I examine new ways of documenting and displaying born digital work. Born digital artefacts need to be recorded and represented through the documentation of their systems and the experiences they afford their users.
Through an analysis of retro gamer sites and the PMA, I present an exemplar for future collaborative practice between museums and online communities for the display and documentation of born digital artefacts. Melanie Swalwell, for her generosity, dedication, guidance, and patience. It has been an inspiring and wonderful journey. I am indebted to my co-supervisor, Assoc Prof. Karen Orr Vered, for her invaluable contribution through her frank and incisive feedback and for her compassion and wisdom throughout the PhD process.
For most of us, working in teams improves the quality of our research by bringing together people with complementary areas of expertise to support the generation and refinement of ideas.
I would like to acknowledge the support and contribution of the Play it Again team: Prof Melanie Swalwell, Prof. Collecting and Exhibiting Player Culture from the s. IFIP Springer, The Popular Memory Archive. Matters of Life and Death, 1—7. Melbourne, Angelides and Harry Agius, — What Is Game Studies in Australia?
DiGRA, Museums and the Web Asia. In the pursuit of my research I have benefited from the opportunity to meet with game preservation scholars, archivists and curators whose input, from casual chats to serious discussion, has informed my work. My family and friends must be thanked for their patience and support.
Most importantly, I would like to thank my friend, mentor, and long-term curatorial collaborator Shiralee Saul for generously reading drafts, for her lively discussion, and for enforcing the correct use of grammar. Finally, I am indebted to my partner Jules Moloney for his love, support and guidance during the writing of this thesis. The display of early games offers the dual challenge of their technologies and their aesthetics 1.
Curators must address the question of how the significance and complexity of videogames can be communicated in the gallery. Videogames can be understood in a variety of ways. Videogames are objects of design. Videogames are also a performance medium and players are the co-authors of videogame experiences. The gameplay of a novice player communicates a very different artefact from the gameplay of an elite player. Player actions can further extend experiences beyond the designed game through a variety of behaviours from hacking and modding to their interactions within the complex social ecologies of massive multiplayer online games.
Their display involves more than just access to executable software, it also strives to make sense of 1 Aesthetics is a notoriously slippery term within videogames research communities. The temptation is to conflate it with previously established areas of artistic endeavour such as graphics, audio and narrative. In their formal approach to understanding videogames, the MDA framework, Hunicke et al.
A concept of aesthetics that addresses the interaction of the player is essential for an understanding of videogames.
This will be discussed further in chapter 3. It has both creative and social functions. As Ian Bogost suggests, you can do a lot things with videogames from pranks to philosophy to pornography. The exhibition of historical videogames and the ability for new audiences to engage with them will play an important part in their survival. The way early videogames are documented and displayed determines how they are understood now and in the future.
In the last decade museums and archives have been increasingly active in videogame preservation. These diverse organisations each addressed the exhibition of videogames through their differing institutional agendas. There are now a number of independent museums devoted to videogames including the Berlin Computerspiele Museum founded , which re- 4 Originally the National Center. For many years fans have pursued their pioneering efforts with software emulation and the documentation of games software, online.
They have produced their archives relatively untrammelled by questions of legality. Free of existing institutional bureaucracy and operating beyond the established traditions of cultural heritage, some groups have developed exemplary practices and inventive systems for documenting the new medium. The activities of these early online retro videogame communities contribute to the transformation of collections and audiences in a digital age. They provide seminal examples of how online digital communities interacting with digital objects are reshaping understandings of access and preservation.
It than operated purely as an online museum touring a series of curated exhibitions before opening in a new permanent exhibition space in They need to embrace both online audiences and the collection of born digital artefacts to adapt to a digital future. Leading voices on game preservation have emphasized the need for institutional solutions that are able to work with and accept contributions from community.
Without players, videogames exist only as static computer code. How videogames come into being through play is still being deliberated within Games Studies. I argue for the importance that the act of exhibiting historical games plays in this process. Exhibition curation asks different questions than the archival and collection curation of historical games. Both exhibition and collection curation address the selection of the best material to be representative of a period and of work that is deemed significant.
Exhibition starts with the questions of access and audiences — asking how to engage and communicate ideas, concepts and stories. Essays on Algorithmic Culture, Electronic Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, Until recently, discussion about game preservation has largely focused on the creation of archives with their assembling of records for future researchers and the technical challenges of preserving executable game software.
History of Games International Conference Proceedings 5, no. My core concern is to capture the history of videogames that is not represented by objects. I explore how videogames were experienced and shared as cultural objects, their meaning within particular communities, and the many distinct and individual stories they generate. In the process, I address how museums could work with online communities to capture a diverse history of videogames. While the importance of the work of retro gamers and fan communities within videogame preservation has been acknowledged, and the need for collaboration been called for, there are few examples of how museums might realize this opportunity.
The scope of this research addresses the curation and exhibition of Australian videogames of the s, examining the kinds of stories and material that need to be represented and collected.
It addresses two key questions: I explore how the museum might utilize player-made artefacts, knowledge, and the practices of retro gamer communities to develop collections and exhibit historical games. I propose that engaging with those who lived through the history of the games, and the collection and display of popular memory can provide significant insights and enable meaningful engagement between institutional collections, retro gamer collections and audiences. The investigations of this thesis are resonant with broader questions about the digital future of museums.
In addition to contributing to game preservation scholarship by proposing techniques that support the 9 1. I explore how institutions can engage audiences online in ways that are meaningful to users and, by allowing them to contribute their knowledge to the collection, add layers of meaning to the collection.
I use questions of access and audience engagement with historical games through exhibition to provide a different perspective on questions of preservation. My research also addresses the role of local game collections as part of both national stories and the larger discourses of game history. The Popular Memory Archive PMA , an online exhibition and archive, is used as a case study to explore and demonstrate some of these ideas.
I address the recent discourse around videogame preservation and draw upon the disciplines of Fan Studies, Game Studies, Media Studies, Sociology and Museology.
Whereas institutions have been slow to recognise the importance of preserving early games, retro gamers and microcomputing fans have been busy archiving software and developing emulators to support continued access to these works.
In addition, these fan communities have been sharing their memories of play and making 21 Play It Again is a game history and preservation project focused on locally written digital games in s Australia and New Zealand. These expert hobbyist sites provide a valuable resource for game fans and game scholars alike. Some of these sites, for example the Hall of Light http: These sites currently occupy a space that the traditional museum is just beginning to address.
Many of these fan sites are better designed and more technologically sophisticated than the budding online videogame resources of museums and institutional archives. The importance of fan and hobbyist groups to the preservation of videogames is widely acknowledged. An added complication is that most hobbyist sites operate in a grey area of the law, collecting, collating and sharing works whose copyright status can be very complex, thus posing a further vulnerability.
An institutional preservation solution is needed for the long-term security of s videogames. Breaking New Ground: Some of these fan sites are over twenty years old, have seen numerous iterations, and have grown with the development of the internet and the expanding opportunities for online participation.
There are only a few examples of institutional collections working directly to utilise fan knowledge and work with fan communities. Machinima, Documentation, and the History of Virtual Worlds. They have none of the richness of the living and expanding catalogues, or the lively online communities, of retro gamer destinations. My interest in the curation of videogames is informed by my background in media arts curation for interactive screen art works and the curation of design and architecture.
Whereas interactive media arts share many of the technical challenges and issues of performance that videogames create for museums and audiences, architecture presents the challenges of complex design objects defined through their multiple relationships to users. In the gallery, architecture is rendered through a series of representations that struggle to convey the full breadth of meanings, approaches, functions and agencies that underpin its design, reception and existence as a set of temporal experiences.
Some understandings are located in specific narratives of science and technology; some concern their reception in local culture, while others are related to their existence in global markets. In addition, authorship is often blurred not just in their design and production, but also through the role users take in co-creating their meanings. The overall meaning and significance of videogames is defined through the practices and experiences of the individuals and communities who interact with them.
It is the aggregate of individual 27 http: The proposition that significance and meaning of early videogames can be accessed through engagement with their communities of players is explored, in part through the Popular Memory Archive. The inspiration for the Popular Memory Archive lies with my experience exhibiting historical games in the gallery. In I curated the exhibition Hits of the s: The focus of the ACMI exhibition was the revelation that Australia not only had a games industry in the s, but that it was a very successful international one.
An example of a game on original hardware was included. What was striking about the exhibition was how poorly the playable games in the gallery engaged audiences. Playing the games revealed little about the experiences and qualities that had made these games historically important. It was inspired by the curatorial efforts and vitality of the retro game sites that had formed key resources for the exhibition Hits of the 80s.
The aims of the demotic memory archive were to recognise the importance of Beam Software and Melbourne House to the story of Australian screen culture, and to reach out to the community who had played their way through this history to collect their memories.
It explained how traditional museum style content was to be complemented with an opportunity for users to contribute to a social history of playing the games. The Popular Memory Archive will both create an invaluable resource that documents the games as understood through experience and it will work to change the traditional relationship of audiences to the museum.
I recognise that the context and collection criteria of individual organisations vary greatly, that the Museum of Modern Art New York and the Computer History Museum Mountain View have distinct appreciations and approaches to their collections and display of videogames.
The purpose and agenda of individual museums critically inform their treatment of videogames. My work with ACMI, a centre for screen culture focused on access and audience, critically informed my curatorial thinking for this thesis project.
Digital technologies are transforming museums; new technologies expand the possibilities of collection management, exhibitions utilise new media to offer engaging and interactive displays, and collections include the born digital as well as material objects.
There is a wealth of material investigating and dissecting the remediation of museums in the digital era that ranges from discourse on the theoretical implications to guides on best practice. New Media Studies Peter Lang I seek only to address those areas resonant with the key questions: How can museums effectively document and display the significance and complexity of videogames that comes into being through the relation between players and the designed object?
And what can museums learn from, and how can they work with, online communities in documenting and displaying game history? These became popular with the arrival of affordable microcomputers in the s. My research does not address itself to home consoles, which dominate the prevailing North American and Japanese accounts of this era. Consoles such as the Colecovision and the Atari were popular in Australia and localized generic PAL clones of home consoles machines were even created especially for the Australian market predominantly in Hong Kong.
However, these early home consoles and their consumption do not appear to directly inform the story of the emergence of games development as a creative industry in Australia. It is discussed in chapter 3 as part of the history of Melbourne House and Beam Software.
The games of early home consoles were designed to plug-and-play, whereas microcomputer gamers were required to have at least a basic 39 understanding of the computer to get their games running. This knowledge stimulated the development of a more intimate relationship to microcomputer game software and hardware.
Before home consoles and the advent of microcomputers, arcade machines had arrived as a form of entertainment in the s. The gameplay of the arcades deeply informed the videogames created for both home consoles and microcomputers as players aspired to bring the pleasures of the arcades home. During the early and mids arcade machines, with their dedicated purpose, could offer more polished games than those of home computing. They were viewed, by most gamers, as a distinct species compared to the games accessible at home.
Whilst most console games remained closer to the arcade style, games for home computers were also informed by the games created in science labs on powerful mainframe computers. Computer games developed in university and science labs on more powerful computers had not only a different pace and style of play to the arcades, but many assumed a level of interest in how the code worked as intrinsic to their 39 Pun intended 40 This is a concept expressed by a number of interviewees including Veronika Megler and John Passfield.
The pleasures commonly associated with the early microcomputers are those of knowing and exploiting the possibilities of systems hardware, of hacking, and of making and sharing code. This research focuses on Australian games for microcomputers but recognizes the variety of influences from arcades, labs and home consoles. Access to resources, budgets and spaces, and other factors such as institutional priorities, the availability of work, and permissions all govern curatorial meaning making.
Technical and legal issues shape the preservation of historical videogames and their exhibition. Copyright and technical preservation challenges, whilst informing how games can be exhibited, are not the focus of my research. The original Lunar Landers required the player to do calculations to land the craft.
Instead, I consider nostalgia as a motivating and unifying force for the highly productive members of retro games community. What is noteworthy is how retro gamers consistently articulate a longing for a time when the user could claim mastery not just of gameplay, but also of the hardware systems themselves. The loyalty that these early platforms inspire is often built around an intimate knowledge of their workings.
Many users were both gamers and home coders, equally fascinated with the potential of the systems as the pleasures of play. Links between the past and present of computing cultures are maintained through retro gaming communities and their associated hobbyist identities. Whilst restorative desire looking backward is locked in a struggle to ward off the failure of old technology, reflective nostalgia looking forward mines the past for creative inspiration, bringing forth new work that examines and appraises the graphics, audio and gameplay achieved through mastering early game systems.
Its researchers have often found little to interest them in the details of the interaction of people with technology. This has led to an imbalance that threatens to erase the human dimension.
Some researchers are challenging this stance. Any understanding of the impact of personal computing necessitates a history that addresses what users actually did with computers: Their reasons for having them; the software they used; the software they wrote; the communities that were formed around home computing.
She states: DeFragging Game Studies. For this purpose, we need to develop microhistorical resources to take full account of the network of people, documents, machines, and programs. I propose that personal memories provide understandings of these early games that cannot be attained from other sources.
In addition, I suggest that that knowledge which Galloway identifies as vital for the ambitions of computing history and preservation, including the tacit knowledge of fixes, work-arounds and other kinds of user modifications, is a form of knowledge that is kept alive in retro game communities.
Intersecting with technical innovations, discursive shifts and larger kinds of philosophical investigations, they can help change ideas. A decade before the arrival of the world-wide-web, the exhibition presents a curious spatial mapping of the hypertextual potential of the digital. Their navigation was enriched by the use of a Walkman, which provided a personal audio feed of fragments of information indirectly related to the displays offering divergent and non-linear interpretations.
Dioramas combined art with everyday objects, technological devices and instruments of science - a now familiar deconstructive tactic to provoke visitors to question the systems of value and power that define such separate categories. Previous understandings about how institutions used their collections to communicate, and communicated their collections, are being challenged in the digital era by the potential of hypertexual relationships and the fluidity of the online environment.
In a similar approach, this thesis adopts a curatorial lens to address the proposition that the complex meanings of videogames as experiences may be addressed more effectively by the systems available to online exhibition. The collections curator is responsible for the care of a collection and its cataloguing.
The collections curator oversees collection criteria, researches objects in their collections and curates exhibitions to share that knowledge with the public. Exhibition curation is no longer associated directly with the care of collections. In my research I propose the act of exhibition curation may help define criteria for the creation of a collection of s Australian videogames. I argue that the demands of exhibition provide a means of inquiry into what to collect to make these works meaningful to audiences.
The exhibition … works, above all, to shape its spectator's experience and take visitors through a journey of understanding that unfolds as a guided yet open-weave pattern of affective insights, each triggered by looking, that accumulates until the viewer has understandings of the curator's insight and hopefully, arrived at insights previously unthought by both.
Curation as a method of inquiry now forms the basis of a number of established international PhD programs. I believe that the critical methods involved in videogame curation can contribute to and advance knowledge and understanding of game preservation and collection by the museum. Guggenheim Museum New York that presented a very interesting exploration of emulation.
Chapter 2 undertakes a survey of literature, situating the research within the context of videogame preservation and the emerging discourses of videogame historiography. The thesis structure is modelled on my process of curation and these chapters represent a key research phase used to determine the scope of material. I use studies of a particular game, The Hobbit, and the analysis of representative retro games sites to discuss resources and techniques for display. The fourth section discusses the Popular Memory Archive as an online exhibition to collect and display the memories of those who lived and played their way through the era of s microcomputing.
I discuss activity on the Popular Memory Archive and offer some evaluation of the significance of the online contributions. Reflecting on the literatures of game preservation, I propose that the collection and exhibition of videogames can be advanced through the examination of the online practices developed by retro games communities.
I position my research in response to the recognition of the need to develop practices that enable contributions from players. Australia is a nation whose history sits on the edge of the story of the emergence of electronic gaming — a predominantly North American and Japanese story.
Whilst there are few sources documenting Australian game history of the s, there are a growing number of historico—cultural studies of local games histories of the s. These include work on Finland, the former Czechoslovakia and New Zealand. In Chapter 3, I examine the history of the development studio Beam Software and their parent company, publisher Melbourne House.
I document the process of researching local videogame development history when no formal industry archives exist. In drawing together this history, the discussion examines the value of fan-created archives as resources for scholarship. I ask: What is left out of game history because of the paucity of resources, the reliance on fan histories, and the hit driven culture and credo of supersession?
In addition, I discuss some of the factors that affected that company over the decade that saw its shift from cottage industry to global business. Think Design Play. Additional resources include an email interview of questions and answers provided by Alfred Milgrom regarding the story of Melbourne House.
Information on Mastertronic, including sales data, was provided by Anthony Guter via email correspondence. Strategy game designers, Strategic Studies Group SSG , afford a case study in the relationship that they cultivated with their audience of dedicated wargamers through their print magazine Run5 This chapter draws on analysis of Run5 and associated archival material in conjunction with oral history interviews recorded with developers Roger Keating and Gregor Whiley.
Run5 offers a record not just of the company but also an account of the player community of this era. The analysis of 60 Copies of these interviews and their transcripts are held at Flinders University Department of Screen and Media.
Local and Global — Games in Culture and Society. They examine the types of resources that document historical games. I focus on the materials that are being produced and shared online by retro gamers to explore how both player-made objects and retro gamer community practices may support the curator in documenting and displaying historical games.
Historical discourses are those of the grand chronological narrative of digital gaming milestones and turning points , whilst heritage discourses address the importance of preserving game cultural objects, representing them, and providing opportunities to re-use them. I argue that whilst playable software is desirable, what we will be able to access, now and in the future, through software preservation will not replicate the original conditions of play.
Proposing that playing a game in the gallery may not be the best way to communicate those qualities of the game that make it culturally significant, I consider what kind of associated documentation is best able to do this.
I examine the materials that have been shared online documenting The Hobbit, examining how the game is represented in retro game sites and personal blogs. Reflecting on the need to include documentation of videogame systems and experiences to reveal how they were understood as played at the time, I ask what can be learnt from the act of exhibition to help determine what to collect. I argue for the potential of player-made artefacts and the value of popular memory to offer a more complex understanding of games as played.
Chapter 6 examines the practices of selected retro-gamer community sites. Steps towards Historical Archives of Computer Gaming. It surveys activity on the site and evaluates the online contributions for their significance. From this analysis, I consider modes of discourse deployed through the PMA, and how more inclusive and reflective practices working with online communities can better inform exhibition of historic games.
The discussion examines other curatorial examples to consider how exhibitions can engage users in meaningful dialogues about collections. The chapter also investigates how systems for the display and documentation of digital objects can evolve to meet the needs of both historical games and contemporary users. I argue for the importance of player memory to document videogames as experiences, having established the significance of these recollections for detailing individual encounters with gameplay and representing socio- cultural understanding of videogames of the period.
As demonstrated by the PMA I argue the potential for the online exhibition to develop a more open approach to collections that encourages and invites a range of participation and knowledge sharing with expert individuals, communities and audiences. In developing the Games Lab for ACMI, I encountered resistance to embracing a new art form that was poorly understood, difficult to collect and not associated with existing museum expertise or audiences.
I then situate the discussion within the historiography of games and, in particular, Australian game history. I identify gaps in knowledge that will be addressed through my research. These include the lack of historical research into early Australian game development, and the need to develop practices for the institutional preservation of videogames that enable contributions from players and retro gamer communities. In contrast to the majority of critical scholarship on game preservation, which is focused on creating archives as resources for scholars, I give primacy to questions of exhibition.
I examine a subset of preservation literature that addresses the importance of the exhibition in developing strategies for 67 The ACMI Game Lab opened in March and closed in to allow the ground floor redevelopment of the Screenworlds gallery. Federico Giordano 70 In , Lowood called for new institutional and curatorial models capable of addressing videogames. Thoughts on the Computer Game Archive of the Future.
It either exists or it does not. The shadow of the imminent loss of videogame hardware and software dominates the discourse about game preservation. For institutions whose collections and preservation strategies are built around the preservation of objects, the ill-defined boundaries of videogames present further issues.
Defining what to collect is the focus of much videogame preservation literature. With Game Studies still ruminating on what defines a videogame, preservationists are tackling the issues of how to collect historical games before they are out of reach. Central to preservation are questions concerning how hardware and software can be preserved, how much code can tell us, and what other materials are needed to understand historical games.
Determining significant properties forces the question — what is the game? What are the defining qualities of the game to be preserved? Katherine Hayles suggests. Lowood, however, stresses the importance of understanding that videogames are themselves not stable artefacts or texts: Games exist somewhere between the text and the experience, confounding preservation strategies that rely on notions of content fixity taken from other media.
Hardware and software objects alone cannot document the medium of the computer game. What is saved by preserving consoles, hardware, and software alone, without recording game play? Is it the designer? And what is the role of the curator? Newman suggests that the interactivity of videogames makes them suites of resources to be played with, rather than fully formed objects.
He argues for the preservation of records of gameplay as a more enduring and accurate legacy of videogames. His position is that the materials players generate — such as walkthroughs, speedruns, tactical guides and help-forums — not only provide a record of the games, but are themselves intimately enmeshed with how games are understood by their users. Confronted with the manifold challenges for the collection and preservation of videogames, it is not surprising that research into preserving game history has looked to the work of hobbyist and retro gamers who have already been tackling some of these tasks.
These communities have been developing techniques and technologies for emulating and migrating games software, and documenting and collating information on historical games.
Lowood, in his seminal presentation envisaging videogame archives of the future, argued that what is required to preserve these artefacts is collaboration. The collaboration he proposes is not just between institutions, but also to develop systems that can include the work of lay historians and communities of game players. These groups, he declares, had already commenced the task of preserving videogames before any institutional solutions were considered.
EFGAMP brings together a coalition of European museums, archives, and research institutions to work together on the big issues confounding game preservation; the legal issues, the need for cohesive description and metadata, hardware and software solutions. EFGAMP proclaim that their roots in community projects are central to their vision and, it is implied, their credibility. Lange has argued that retro gaming emulation practices offer a method for other digital preservation initiatives, that the ingenuity of gamers can help unlock lost and entombed data for other industries.
The PVWR identifies how retro gamers have not only been responsible for creating emulators and investing long hours in other technical troubleshooting, but also acknowledges how they have also saved essential technical information. The National Videogame Arcade, Nottingham, a museum dedicated to videogames, opened in with Iain Simons as co-director. Newman is also involved in curation at the new museum. The National Videogame Arcade exhibitions draw on the National Videogame Archive collections of over 12, objects of gaming significance.
PVWR researcher Kari Kraus describes how the game manual she accessed for the interactive fiction Mindwheel was originally sourced from the retro game site Home of the Underdogs. MAME emerged in when two Italian programmers, Mirko Buffoni and Nicola Salmoria, interested in the constraints that governed the aesthetics and design of arcade games, created a program that emulated the architecture of standard arcade games.
They posted their emulator online and other coders started debugging the emulator and adding drivers to enable it to play additional arcade game ROMS. Achavanuntakul, a merchant banker, stopped updating HotU in and in the server provider went bankrupt and the site went offline. Achavanuntakul moved on, but regular users of the original site have revived versions of HotU in various forms.
When I started I knew absolutely nothing about arcade games. Everything I found was new for me, and there was very little information available.
But MAME was designed from the start to make it as easy as possible to add new drivers, to be portable, and to encourage people to contribute. That is what made it successful. Once the code was released on the web it was shared and stored by numerous users. No longer dependent on specific hardware, the repeated replication of the code and its broad dispersal has ensured its survival. MAME illustrates the two key benefits of online community preservation; the many minds dedicated to problem solving, and the safety provided by multiple distributed copies circulating online.
Access and, in particular, ongoing access is central to these visions. It has the dual advantage of the virtual machine combined with the broad reach of browser-based interface — accessible to communities beyond those with the expertise of emulation. Newman and Simons warn against the seduction of characterising retro fans as uniformly careful conservationists and benign agents. They argue that the aims and responsibilities of the institutional archive may differ from community efforts.
The curatorial ambitions of an institution, its specific collections policies and legal responsibilities, are mostly at odds with the more inclusive, laissez-faire practices of many fan collections. The sharing of collections of ripped game ROMs, featuring games stripped of their dates, credits, manuals, context and country of origins, by fans is a practice, Newman notes, that is clearly in conflict with a preservationist agenda.
Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory http: The National Videogame Archive: Videogames, Supersession and Obsolescence. A point of difference between the institutional practices of preservation and much of the hobbyist community occurs around legal considerations. ACMI collections manager Nick Richardson recounts how a collection of historic news reels held by the Australian National Film and Sound Archive were saved by the very worker whose job it was to protect the rights of owners by destroying the prints after use.
The government worker, convinced by the cultural value of these films, reneged on their duty to burn the prints, choosing instead to store them for over 40 years before donating them back to the nation. History has transformed their act from criminal to that of a national hero and international preservationist. Lowood acknowledges that the inventive and nimble hobbyist communities can set sail on waters that may currently be beyond the capacity of large institutions.
I think of the cultural institutions as like big battleships and the individual enthusiasts are like PT boats. The PT boats can get around much quicker but it is much more difficult to steer a battleship in a new direction.
Cultural institutions have more experience of long-term preservation strategies. Institutional preservation strategies necessitate engaging videogame developers and publishers, whose archives are equally as important to preserve as the games.
How can this IP be protected as preservation needs demand that they must give the institution some rights to alter and migrate code? Source code and design documentation may include material that has yet to be published. Code can contain elements that are locked down and not functional or visible in the final game. Unlike film, edited gamecode does not end up on the cutting room floor.
As the PVWR notes, many companies see this request as equivalent to handing over the crown jewels. A key component of the preservation agenda addresses the importance of recording stories of production that highlight the technical and creative achievements of individuals and companies. To help document and preserve the history of games, the IGDA White Paper and the PVWR both provide checklists of desirable items to request from developers — from the actual source code the preservation of which would ensure ongoing access , through design documentation to oral histories.
These checklists address the need to collect not just the work, but also document the design process and identify the contributions of the creative individuals and teams who make games. A study by PVWR and IGDA contributors Donahue and Kraus addresses the role of professional player communities in the preservation of virtual worlds, acknowledging the tension between industry and fan archivists. They also highlight the perceived threat the amateur knowledge communities pose to the expertise and standards of heritage institutions.
There are, however, few examples of what these relationships might actually look like. Here individuals can contribute recordings of activities and events in virtual worlds and immersive games; many provide commentaries and personal reflection as they navigate through the world. With its stated academic aims and focused research ambitions, Kraus and Donahue. Other, later, collections on the Internet Archive offer better demonstrations of the proposition of community contribution.
At the time of writing there were over Lets Play contributions, with more being added. The Internet Archive also hosts the Nextgenwalkthroughs. The last one to note here, and a resource that has particular relevance to the era of my research, is the C64 game Video Archive.
This collection is predominantly the work of one dedicated fan, Reinhard Klinksiek, who is committed to making comprehensive gameplay recordings of Commodore 64 games, and is drawn from his website C64 Longplays. It is an approach that does not directly meet the criteria for collaborative practice as proposed by Lowood. There are also significant issues in harvesting sites with rich The Internet Library was officially designated as a library by the State of California in It is not unusual for sites such as World of Spectrum to have robot exclusion protocols so they cannot be crawled by archiving bots.
This means that many key sites cannot be documented in this manner and others may produce archival copies that are trivialised by the significant loss of content.
The player interviews responding to the same question are, however, yet to be displayed. Through their work at the Gamecity Festival, a curatorial exercise in presenting videogames and the cultures that surround them, Newman and Simons observed that making historical games playable is not necessarily the best way to make games understood. As I have discussed elsewhere, it did not take videogames long to find their way into the gallery. With its selection of significant arcade machines, the exhibition celebrated the artistry of mathematical minimalism, examined the new aesthetic possibilities of game mechanics and explored how arcade games expressed the anxieties of the Cold War and the burgeoning techno- dystopianism associated with computing.
Later exhibitions such as Game On and The Art of Videogames utilise relentless technological evolution as a structuring and self-evident narrative. The rapid obsolescence is no longer novel as it was to exhibition goers of the s for, as Newman has argued, supersession now underpins the cultural consumption of videogames. The list of ten canonical videogames was a provocation initiated by Henry Lowood to draw attention to the cultural significance of videogames and to act as a catalyst for discussion of the importance of game preservation.
It was first presented as a panel discussion at the Game Developers Conference, San Francisco in and received a lot of games media press, mostly around the selection of games, but it also spread ripples of awareness of the need to preserve games.
The canon was included in Gameworld by curator Carl Goodman. What is the function of a canon? What else should be included? Whose canon is it? Some of the games had to be emulated to be displayed, an act that added more poignancy and provocation to the timely insistence of the need to start preserving historic games before they slip into oblivion. In this context the concept of a canon offered another tool to interrogate what videogames are.
Videogames are difficult objects in the gallery. Audiences are tasked with learning complex rule systems to play them. They often require high levels of game-based literacy and skill to navigate. Other practicalities that affect the display of games in the gallery include their lengthy play times and the investment required to uncover, unlock, and access both areas and gameplay features that may define the game.
Can this be rendered through hands-on gameplay? Iain Simons does not think so: These collections are composed of the ephemera that surround games, traditional interpretative materials such as publications and merchandise, box art and manuals, and, increasingly, new forms of player-created content. Museums address videogames as cultural artefacts in ways that reflect the broader cultural agendas of the individual organisations.
Museums are themselves diverse in scale, discipline and role. In their comparative case study on game preservation, Barwick et al consider how different museums have different ways of interpreting games. The National Media Museum, Bradford, is interested in how the community has consumed videogames as new media culture. For the Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester, videogames are a new development in the history of play. These individual curatorial ambitions govern how and what works are collected and displayed.
Navigating the collections of a diverse group of US museums, Guins cannot help but express his longing for the perpetual possibility of playing games on their original hardware; a desire he blames on a mix of personal nostalgia and deep scholarly investment in the history of things.
It describes objects to which the observer no longer has a vital relationship and which are in the process of dying. He asks, what happens to the non- digital artefacts of game history behind the glass? He argues that, despite being born digital, videogame history should not purely focus on hardware and software but should address other forms of design history. Videogames, as objects, also belong to the histories of industrial design, package design, and graphic design.
He Moby Games is a community created online database of information about videogames. Members can add material that is verified by other community members. Founded in , in it was sold to Gamefly, causing the abdication of many community members unhappy about providing free labour to a commercial company.
A buggy redesign of the site and poor communication in saw further fallout from community. The literature review revealed that, despite this recognition being explicitly raised by Lowood in and reiterated throughout the literature, there are few exemplars of practice.
The previous section on the exhibition of videogames discusses issues regarding the collection and display of videogames and the potential of exhibition curation as a tool for critical examination. This next section discusses approaches to videogame historiography and the lack of research into early Australian game development. One challenge of writing recent history, explain Renee C. Romano and Clair Bond Potter, is that historians need to learn unfamiliar and non- traditional research skills.
Historians need to access archives that may not accord with their understanding of authentic and accredited resources. In the digital age, investigating recent history may require searching through the glut of information on the internet.
This, Romano and Potter suggest, creates new perils and possibilities for the historian.
Wolf ed , Before the Crash: While there has been a focus in preservation debates on preserving historical resources for research, the purpose of game history itself has been neglected. He proposes that the history of videogames, whether located online or within the growing number of printed game histories both popular and academic , can be divided into four categories.
These are: The History of Games International Conference These four categories, in turn, can be divided into three discursive patterns: Suominen is not pedantic about his categories, merely offering them up as a starting point for a more critical discussion of game history. He explains how the categories overlap and interweave.
The implication is that videogame history will be the creation of such a mix of disciplines, schools of thought, authors and audiences that there are too many variables at play to suggest any kind of exhaustive taxonomy. He identifies them as resources for those embarking on much needed critical histories.
Guins takes the same approach to the amateur archives of retro gamers. Lowood provides a wider perspective, discussing how the issues facing videogame history are comparable to those encountered by the relatively recent discipline of the History of Science. Pong, he explains, is located in the story of electronics rather than computing.
The machine has no code. This presents a tidy linear narrative of technological progress. What is also lost is the distinction between the social and creative agendas of the university computer lab, those of the design and engineering of a commercial product for market, and the very different ambitions of the human agents working with the technology. History of Games International Conference Proceedings.
Against these traditions, the need to critically locate videogames in a socio-historical context is identified. This is not to undermine the importance of amateur archives, as without the efforts of dedicated fans much of the early history of videogames would be lost. One area that has emerged recently in critical historical studies of videogames is local game history. Australia is peripheral to the emergence of electronic gaming.
Videogame history is identified primarily with the big players, Japan and North America. These are both nations whose development histories in the s are dominated by narratives of the arcades and consoles. He also provides additional examples. Local historio-cultural studies of s gaming include research from Finland, Netherlands, the former Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand.
In her work on the early history of New Zealand games, Swalwell advocates the need to pay attention to local points of difference in the stories of game production, and that they reveal that the history of technology, whilst in part global, is also culturally specific. Many of the contributions to these scholarly collections are themselves chronicles, historical surveys of local development. Formation, Present State, and Future Routledge Despite acknowledging Australian company Melbourne House, an important name in the UK scene, and recognising that Australia developed games, the budding antipodean industry does not receive any real attention in his study.
Some well-known and more recent games, otherwise outside the scope of the thesis, illustrate this point. Despite its Australian origins, Team Fortress is not thought of as an Australian game. Ports and remakes are rarely acknowledged. The Force Unleashed for the Wii. Often these conversions are very technically challenging, particularly when developers are dealing with inferior or more limited platforms.
Finn reflects on the cultural perception of videogames in relation to the amendment to the Australian Classification Act, with its expressed concerns regarding interactivity as inherently more problematic than linear screen content.
It was available as a pdf download from their website and also printed on the walls of their Melbourne offices. Its focus leaned toward members of the GDAA. Melbourne House did not publish their first videogame until Sam Hinton notes, in a study of the Australian industry, that this era of development focused on low-cost hardware and uncomplicated computer systems.
This allowed local development to be carried out for little investment. He characterizes this era of game development as a garage industry. Following the redesign of the website in , the documents are no longer visible on the site. Also absent is acknowledgement of the roles played by individuals who had left to work in the global industry and later returned as experienced industry leaders, bringing major studios to Australia.
Figure 2: Origins of Australian Game Developers, from Sumea, detail Australian developers see themselves as players in an international community.
Production, Play, and Place, ed. The distance from the major publishers of North America and Europe is presented as a serious barrier for attracting work. In , when McCrea was writing, the work for hire model had collapsed and with it the majority of Australian studios.
The Global Financial Crisis, the high Australian dollar, and changes to game production, including a new console cycle and the end of a market for second tier games, had destroyed the business model. McCrea credits many Australian studios as co-authors of their own demise, with poor business practices and weak projects. Production, Play, and Place Palgrave Macmillan Commissioned for the Game On exhibition, the tone of the text is informational rather than analytical.
The rapid demise of the local industry is a reminder of how volatile the technology driven industry is. In the wake of the destruction of the previous industrial model of game production in Australia, McCrea looks to the commercial and critical success of Australian studios Firemint and Halfbrick in developing successful IP in the growing mobile and IOS territory.
In an interview with independent game developers Julian Oliver and Kipper Katharine Neil in , Swalwell documents the very oppositional position these developers feel that the industry holds to their work and the challenges for both in finding financial support and an Firemint was downloadd by publishers EA in , which later downloadd Iron Monkey, both highly acclaimed creators of AAA licenced mobile titles.
Hinton and McCrea both present a history of an industry defined through its relationship to the centre and its dependence on the big publishers.
This important period in Australian game history is worthy of preservation and critical analysis. Melbourne House and Beam Software 79 3. I focused not on issues of software preservation, but the need to capture the multiple facets of game culture and the experiences of historical games as played.
I observed that this knowledge sits with those who played videogames at the time. The importance placed on working with community and the implementation of a collective approach to game preservation, both internationally and locally, was recognized as a central theme in preservation discourse. I identified the need for models of how institutions could work effectively to accept contributions from gamer communities.
I proposed the importance of local game histories to provide alternative and enriching perspectives on videogame history. In response to the demands for a need for a local history, this chapter presents a history of Australian developers Beam Software and their parent company, publishers Melbourne House.
I argue that these hobbyist DIY publications and their popularity help provide a critical understanding of a creative user culture of the era and the national preferences of different microcomputing communities.
Melbourne House and Beam Software There are many people who, despite their significant contributions to games of the era, remain virtually invisible in game history. The work of tool-makers is often uncredited and is, therefore, less celebrated than those who worked directly on the games by both scholars and retro gamer sites.