Panel Discussion: Preserving the Digital Game Canon

A little over a week ago, I attended PAX East in Boston for the second time and was able to attend a few very interesting panels that were related to retro gaming.    My favorite panel of the bunch was entitled “Ten Games You Need to Play: The Digital Game Canon” put on by the IGDA (International Game Developers Association).   The title is a bit misleading as the panel didn’t really talk about the “Ten Games You Need To Play”, but instead served as a follow-up to a 2007 GDC panel.   This PAX East panel actually focused more of the effort of preserving video games and their history – everything from the source code and artwork to documenting the experiences related to the games themselves. (See the IGDA’s wiki for Game Preservation)

I was actually quite thrilled that the panel focused more the preservation aspect as we’ve all participated in numerous discussions about what are the “essential games” (we do that plenty here at Racketboy).  Video game preservation and documentation is a subject that I’ve been interested in and entertained in my head for over a decade.  Unfortunately, I had previously been unaware of the wonderful efforts the members of this panel.   Hopefully, I can reconcile this by sharing the panel’s video I was fortunate enough to record and by keeping better tabs on this effort in the future.

See Video on Youtube / Download MP3 of Discussion

This video clocks in at well over an hour, but if you are remotely interested in preserving this history of classic video games, I invite you to at least sample this video discussion.  I think you’ll find that all of the panel members and their discussions to be quite engaging and thought-provoking.

Prior to the event, the panel’s moderator Christopher Grant (Editor-In-Chief of Joystiq) posted a great introduction to the panel, which included short bios of the panelists in addition to some links to check out that are related to the project.

I’m also very curious to hear what the Racketboy community thinks of this effort.  Once I get caught up on things around here, I hope to develop an outline of this panel and start up some forum threads to further the discussion (unless someone else wants to help me out 😉  )   I think there are many excellent starting points for deep conversation included in this video.  To be honest, one hour wasn’t enough to do it justice – I was chomping at the bit for more as I walked out of the room.

I want to thank all of the panelists again for not only putting in so much work into this project, but also for letting me record this session.

Session Information:

  • Recorded: March 13, 2011
  • Location: PAX East 2011, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Panelists: Dave Gibson [Curator, Library of Congress], Jon Gibson [Founder, I am 8-bit], Christopher Grant [Editor-in-Chief,], Henry Lowood [Curator/Professor, Stanford University], Chris Melissinos [Curator, Smithsonian’s Art of Video Games Exhibition]


Christoph says:

Very interesting.

Chris Sanyk says:

I’m really glad that there are people who recognize the importance of this and are taking it so seriously right now.

That said, I can’t imagine *not* trying to preserve “as much as possible” rather than selecting a “videogame canon”. What is deemed important now is not what will be deemed important in the future. It’s the very stuff that won’t be preserved that will provide the most intrigue to future generations and historians. And if we don’t do what we can to preserve it now, we take away the option for later generations to continue to preserve it. Therefore, we should try to preserve everything that can be preserved, not worry about narrowing down to only the essential, important titles that are considered landmark accomplishments. Those are the ones that are most likely to be preserved for all time anyway, due to their success and popularity and endless revival and reprise and remarketing.

racketboy says:

While you do bring up some good points, Chris, keep in mind that they aren’t just preserving the physical game cartridges and discs. There are many other elements that they are trying to preserve. I think the purpose of narrowing down the list is to focus their limited time and resources. I also don’t think they are turning donations and such away.

schnuth says:

Wow, thanks for posting this as I was unable to attend PAX. Any chance there is a MP3 of the audio floating around? It would be great if this were to show up in the podcast feed.

tylerbgood says:

Thanks for posting this; this is something I’ve been curious about for years. The anthropologist in me always considers how are culture will be preserved and reflected through the ages. I’m planning to load this onto my iPod as an .mp3 for convenience sake. I’ll post a link here for schnuth and others. Feel free to add it to the article if you wish racket.

racketboy says:

Thanks for the MP3 link! I’ll add it to the post 🙂

David Carrington says:

Ive got just over 500 games from all consols.Ive tryed to get the best games from my piont of veiw.If one day someone comes knocking at my door and wants a certain game for there archive i will be glad to let them have it.As long as they listen to why i think this game was good and document it.Just to think about in 100 years from now haunts me,i will be long gone and the games will still be around.Its one hell of a good idea.Just think n the distant future we be adle to go down the museum and spend hours upon hours doing reserch HA HA.

Metal Jesus says:

I’ve been thinking about this a lot with DLC and downloadable only games. I bought and downloaded on X360 Live Arcade the game Shadow Complex, which I LOVED! The problem is that it only exists on my hard drive and I don’t have physical media. I really wish I had a DVD of the game to put on my shelf and show off like with the rest of my collection for years to come. Instead, it almost feels like I rented it… The same goes with so many excellent iPad games I’ve downloaded. I want to reserve them for years to come.

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