Library of Congress to Catalog Video Games

From Kotaku.

According to The Library of Congress, video games are just as important to our historical past as literature, movies and music. And at the moment, the LoC is teaming up with major universities across the country to begin a 2-year initiative with the sole intent of figuring out just how institutions can preserve video games for years to come, while making the content accessible for use and study.

Our story today is about the very real victory for game developers, enthusiasts and scholars, in which the top library in the nation has said they're part of this video game fad for the count.

In truth, the Library of Congress has been collecting games since the 1980s. Due to their advantageous position—the Copyright Office is part of their organization— they've come across various collections just by receiving copies of published materials as mandated by copyright law.

How does one build a video game archive in the digital age?

"One of the facets we want to document with videogames [as we did with film] is not only having the actual games themselves, but many of the associated material to have the real sense of the full gamut of what videogames and the industry meant in cultural terms," said Senior Cataloger Brian Taves. Yes, he means the sweatshirts, the posters and the shoes. They want all the cultural materials they can find.

The National Digital Information Infrastruction Preservation Program is a huge initiative interested in digital preservation. This encompasses basically everything imaginable on Earth. Under that, there is the Preserving Creative America initiative. Here is where you see the Library's interest in preserving all sorts of creative works, like film or books, into digital formats. Then, one of the eight grants under this Creative America umbrella is the Preserving Virtual Worlds Project.

Spearheaded by the University of Illinois, the Preserving Virtual Worlds project is a 2-year program starting in 2008 that will hopefully build a model of game and interactive fiction archiving. In a partnership with Stanford University, University of Maryland, Rochester Institute of Technology, and one commercial institution—Second Life makers Linden Lab— University of Illinois hopes to create metadata standards to make content manageable before moving forward to create case studies (ie test examples) of actual video game archiving.

.. Copyright is meant to protect an IP, but ultimately, that copyright may prevent researchers from saving a work from extinction. Microsoft once explained to me the difficulty of tracking down IP owners to reproduce their games as XBLA titles. Protip: If Microsoft can't find the source of an IP, nobody can.

The only way to solve copyright issues moving into the future is to bring commercial partners on board.

Research libraries will absolutely need the support of commercial video game publishers to archive their work. Whether it's to help create metadata (companies provide information on everything from the engine they used to their plotline) or just supplying access to those precious IPs, the commercial aid is not an option, it's a necessity.

"So the question is, do they have strong enough interest in preserving the content to contribute any of their own resources towards it. How much do they care about their own game alive?"


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