The Game Inspector: a case study in gameplay preservation

Newman, J (2018) 'The Game Inspector: a case study in gameplay preservation.' Kinephanos: Journal of Media Studies and Popular Culture, Spec. (August). pp. 120-148. ISSN 1916-985X

Official URL:


This paper presents the development of the Game Inspector at the National Videogame Arcade (United Kingdom) and the implementation of this device through a case study of Super Mario Bros. This development has been influenced by previous research and ongoing debates about the preservation of the playable experience. Considering the accessibility issues emerging from the difficulty and complexity of video games, I explain the benefits of annotated audiovisual documentation in the context of museum exhibitions.

Item Type: Article

The article is available to read online from the URL above.

On 28 March 2015, the UK’s National Videogame Arcade (NVA) opened its doors to the public. Located in the centre of Nottingham, it is a ‘cultural centre for video games…equal parts art gallery, museum exhibit and educational centre’ (Parkin 2015a). Alongside myriad consoles, computers and Coin-Op cabinets, objects and artefacts specifically collected and donated by members of the public and industry veterans alike, a new category of interpretative exhibit was unveiled: The Game Inspector. Bespoke devices designed and fabricated by the NVA’s curatorial and engineering teams, the Game Inspectors allow visitors to explore a variety of videogames, investigating their level designs, object and enemy placement, discovering multiple routes and exits, and revealing hidden items, power-ups, secret rooms and even secret stages - with one important twist. All of this discovery and investigation is achieved without actually playing the games themselves. Instead, the Game Inspectors make use of annotated maps of specific levels overlaid with contextual information and numerous video captures that demonstrate and unpack different gameplay techniques, design elements, and glitches. The Game Inspectors seek to account for the ludic potential of a videogame by demonstrating it at play in a host of different ways all of which can be accessed through an interface that allows scrutiny and movement through the game’s space which is littered with the palimpsests of previous play and/or its design.

Keywords: video game preservation, video game exhibition, Super Mario Bros., National Videogame Arcade
Divisions: Bath School of Design
UoA: Cultural, Communication Studies & Media
Date Deposited: 17 May 2018 11:13
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2023 19:16
URI / Page ID:
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)