We have a memory problem


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Copyright laws and practice are doing no favors to software preservation. The Internet Archive is allowed to operate as a “library,” but wouldn’t it be nice if the abandonware sites didn’t have to exist underground? I wonder who of the current crop of people in Congress would be willing to sponsor a bill to preserve some of these obsolete entertainments that are probably considered frivolous by many taxpayers. If the Democrats were still in power, I’d think maybe Al Franken, but there’s much more urgent stuff going on nowadays. Sigh.

And, thanks to the antics of GamerGate, the academic community has lost faith in video games as an area worthy of study. Archivists and students focused on games are finding they can no longer get funding, because the perceived immaturity and toxicity of gamers has made people question whether the medium is worthy of preservation at all. Even if public perception eventually recovers, it’s possible a lot of early video game history will be lost, similar to the loss of a lot of early film history.

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I’d be pretty darn surprised if the game industry did have any sort of institutional memory. There’s so much turn-over in the industry, what with the abusive labor practices, something which I imagine is mirrored in the game press (with its similar expectation about it being young people doing the work out of youthful “passion”). Add to that copyright issues, technological obsolescence, orphaned work, etc. I can’t think of any other medium/industry so structured to forget its own past.

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Is the academic community (much less the general public) really even aware of GG? I was vaguely under the impression that shitshow was at least contained to the games-journalism-reading population.

Unfortunately GG achieved just enough attention (of the “wow, can you believe how disgusting gamers are???” variety) in mainstream news sources that for a lot of laypeople it’s the most recent or even only thing they’re aware of about the video game industry/community. For people and organizations predisposed to not take new beep-boop media like video games seriously, it’s the last nail in the coffin… and unfortunately they’re frequently the ones giving out the funding.

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Well, you know the Academic community! Always quick to respond to the winds of change.

Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were several new departments devoted to post-GamerGate studies forming as we speak.

No, seriously. Academia is a glacier. Gamergate is barely half a year old, and you expect that to change academia?

Gamergate is a mayfly, an insignificant cultural blip (although emblematic of large societal ills).

GG wishes they had influence on something they can’t doxx or hound out of town.

But Academia? Puh-leeze.

@Mindysan33 - you’re a Big-A Academic. Has GamerGate got your cohort in a tizzy? Are they running scared? Have they decided that field-studies of Mexican narcos is a safer area of research?

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Hm. Not in my particular field - history. If anyone was talking about gaming, it would like be stuff from the 70s or 80s, not the current forms, and no one I know is working on that topic (I do have a friend who, last I heard was working on the history of hacking, but that’s the closest thing). I’d suspect that there is plenty of talk in English departments, women’s studies departments, and communications departments, or sociology and the like. I do know a couple of people in the English department who were working on issues related to video games and gaming, but that was a couple of years ago.

I’m going to a pop culture conference in the not too distant future, so I can report back on the number of panels on topics related to gaming, if anyone is interested.


Leigh, thanks for mentioning Herz’s book. I found a used copy and it’s now enroute. And to think she wrote that in 1996–just a year or two after the web really took off. I’d love to read your review or thoughts on it.

I read Breathing Machine on the train to Pax East last week. A beautiful memoir; I still can’t get that last paragraph out of my mind. You and Jason Scott are both treasures.


I agree completely, and have little useful to add. My favorite games of all time have been from SNES, PS1, and Windows circa 1999. Most of them I can still play through emulation and compatibility modes of current hardware and operating systems, even if they are a bit buggy.

FFVII, interestingly, is one of the problems. I never owned a PS1, and never got around to playing FFVII all the way through as a kid. I tried a couple of years ago, and realized the graphics look unnavigably awful on a 55" HDTV screen.

For now I’m going to keep all my old game CDs and DVDs, so I can eventually download ROMs and emulators and truthfully say I am using them as backup copies. Sadly I already got rid of the NES and Genesis cartridges, and the Sega CD and Dreamcast games.

Where’s the Constellation Database of Games of a Certain Complexity when you need it?

What are you basing that on? What specific academics are you talking about?

Also, how do you draw a link to #GG?

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