Saving (and re-saving) videogames: rethinking emulation for preservation, exhibition and interpretation

Newman, J (2019) 'Saving (and re-saving) videogames: rethinking emulation for preservation, exhibition and interpretation.' The International Journal of Creative Media Research, 1. ISSN 2631-6773

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The rapidly growing number of museums, archives and galleries turning their attentions to videogames reveals both the level of public and scholarly interest in the histories of design and play and, rather more worryingly, that we currently possess extremely limited methods for exhibiting, interpreting and accessing games and gameplay. Strategies based around the collection, maintenance and use of original hardware and software satisfy purists in search of authenticity but are necessarily short-term as technological obsolescence and media deterioration inevitably render systems and games unusable. As such, for most game preservation practitioners, the only viable long-term approaches make use of emulation – that is the creation of new software environments that mimic the operation of obsolete hardware and allow old games to be run on new computing platforms thereby sidestepping the need to keep old systems up and running. However, where most critical commentary on emulation centres on evaluating the accuracy of audiovisual reproduction, here I argue that the fixation with authenticity and the fetishisation of the recreation of the original experience leaves the interpretative potential of emulation untapped. Accordingly, in this article I propose a rethinking of the preservation and interpretation functions of emulation. This approach actively embraces the transformative nature of emulation and makes positive play of the innovative ways in which games and gameplay can be altered. Focusing in particular on the unique affordance of the ‘savestate’ that allows games to be arbitrarily suspended and recalled, this article explores how a reconceptualisation of emulation offers curators, scholars and players methods and tools for interpreting, accessing and navigating gameplay in ways hitherto impossible.

Item Type: Article

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Divisions: Bath School of Design
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Media Research
UoA: Cultural, Communication Studies & Media
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Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2019 16:42
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2023 19:16
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