The Beginning of Video Game Preservation Via Kickstarter?
by Marcus Estrada
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]heresa Duncan helped to create some truly unique and enjoyable PC games during the 1990s. Many young girls and boys discovered these whimsical, cartoony adventures and loved every second of them. Today, games such as Chop Suey, Smarty, and Zero Zero are all but gone from the gaming landscape. Attempt to purchase a copy through Amazon or eBay and you’ll find that practically only Chop Suey is still around. But just because these games are now older doesn’t mean they are any less enjoyable or important.
That’s why Rhizome’s project to preserve Theresa Duncan’s game struck a chord with me. Not only would they preserve them though, the Kickstarter funds also go toward granting everyone free web access to the trio of titles. It’s exciting to see a project like this because it’s something I seriously hope to see with many other games as well. So many video games have already fallen into obscurity with barely any reference online. Titles worth playing and study might never be given their chance just because they’re unknown.
There are thousands of games out there which have already “disappeared” to time. Some of these titles could be considered such rarities that only serious collectors are aware of them. With that being the case, the only copies still in circulation sell for high amounts between those groups. However, if you’re in any game collecting scene then you’re likely aware that many collectors will still share a rare game. How? They get a copy of the files and put them online for anyone to access. This does severely lower the value of rare games in some instances but it’s exciting to see a form of homegrown preservation.
Really, that’s the most dependable form of preservation we have right now. Multiple people and organizations across different countries are all trying to preserve games but what that means is really unknown at this point. There is no one overarching database which every organization references yet. Instead, many people create their own and try to fill in bits as they go. In the United States, there are even operations where people preserve games purely on a volunteer basis. In places like Japan, preservation is the effort of a very small group of people paying heavily out of pocket to continue doing what they love.
This is as opposed to films which now have a great deal of attention on them in regards to preservation. Of course, this only started happening once more people viewed the medium as important. It seems we’re not quite there with games yet – though this must be the eventuality. Unlike films, older games have a very limited lifespan so hopefully the wait isn’t too long. Film reels, when treated properly, can last a while but old cartridges and discs are suspect to all sorts of aging and data loss over 20 years. Some rarities will make it to their date of preservation, but unfortunately some games will never be preserved. It’s all about time and the clock is ticking away.
My hope is that Rhizome’s Theresa Duncan CD-ROM Kickstarter campaign is just the start of something. We need more efforts to preserve important games for future players to experience. So far, established organizations have done well but still gone unnoticed by most. With enough crowdfunding attention I hope that companies will begin to see the value of preservation. They need to recognize that this isn’t about money, either. It’s about saving an art form that desperately needs to be preserved.
[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg”]Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]