The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Games People Play, Then Save
Video games are making news in all sorts of ways as we head into the holiday season. Call Of Duty: Black Ops—a video game in which players time travel to insert themselves into in Cold War scenarios, like the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba in 1961—became the world’s fastest selling video game the day it was released in mid-November. The pre-Christmas roll-out of Microsoft’s new Kinect—a system that lets players interact with on-screen games through gestures, facial expressions, and spoken commands instead of a control box—introduced a new set of options for entering and entertaining ourselves in virtual world. As new products like these become available, old battles and debates about the downside of video games continue popping up. This month, the Supreme Court wades into a thicket of free-speech and children's rights issues, in a First Amendment case where gaming industry lawyers will argue that video games, even the most violent ones, are exercises of free speech and that their sale to minors should not be banned. Violence, their position goes, has long been represented in children’s books, movies, and comics, and video games are part of that tradition. Regardless of where you might side on that issue, what’s incontrovertible is that video games are revealing and important cultural artifacts. And acknowledging that—and eager to represent what our lives are like at this point in time—the British Library recently announced its intention to work closely with videogame developers and manufacturers to archive and preserve the industry’s 30 year history. From our experience at the Archives—about inevitable hardware obsolescence and the life-span of software and digital media—the British Library’s goal is ambitious and worth tracking. Also interesting is the idea that the British government may soon require publishers to donate a copy of any videogame they create to the Library, much like the British Library and our Library of Congress archive and keep track of printed books that are published. This videogame project underscores how, worldwide, archives are beginning to aggressively collect examples of the digital technologies and products that are transforming everyday life and experience. Earlier this year, the US Library of Congress announced that it would be archiving all of our Twitter messages to each other, yet another example of how archives interpret their mission and face the challenges of both making history vivid and keeping it alive.
A collection of retro and vintage japanese video games and consoles, by Brycecorp.