What do videogames want? Preserving, playing and not playing digital games and gameplay

Newman, J (2024) 'What do videogames want? Preserving, playing and not playing digital games and gameplay.' MAP: Media Archive Performance, 14. ISSN 2191-0901

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Videogames are disappearing. At a time when there are more gaming platforms and titles available than ever before, it might seem strange to claim that videogames are disappearing. And yet, despite their apparent abundance, the processes of material and digital deterioration render hardware and software unusable as hard drives fail, discs become unreadable, activation servers are re-allocated and newly released systems offer limited compatibility with existing libraries of games and peripherals. Adding to this, journalistic, retail and marketing practices fuel a marketplace of perpetual innovation that rationalises and justifies the rapidity of supersession and obsolescence. As such, videogames are, without doubt, disappearing and the continued – and accelerating – loss of this material denies future generations access to their cultural heritage and robs the next generation of developers historical reference material to draw on. As Henry Lowood (2009) pointed out more than a decade ago, we need to take action ‘before it’s too late’. Building on ideas initially explored in Best Before (2012) and developed through the Game Over (2018) and Time Extend! (2020) White Papers, this paper outlines a range of different approaches to preserving, interpreting and exhibiting videogames. The paper offers an overview and critique of existing approaches and revisits some of the methodological and conceptual presuppositions that underpin game preservation and even the academic discipline of game studies as a whole. Returning to first principles, the paper asks ‘What Do Videogames Want?’. This deceptively simple question appears similarly straightforward to answer. Surely, videogames want to be played? The idea that videogames have to be played to be understood seems almost self-evident. In fact, as this paper demonstrates, we might even say that videogames need to be played and that, without the constitutive acts of play and performance, there is no game.

Item Type: Article

This article consists of an introductory piece of text and a video essay outlining new approaches to digital game preservation. Both are accessible from the journal website at the links below.

UN SDGs: Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Divisions: Bath School of Design
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Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2024 11:21
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2024 16:07
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/15974
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