Preserving Games

Archiving the Creation Processes of the Video Game Industry

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About This Project

This IMLS early career award is an ethnographic research project focused on supporting the collection and preservation of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games.

The process of this project will be twofold: 1) to examine the creation methods and behaviors of video game developers, designers, and artists through in-depth interviews and work observation; and 2) to create in-depth inventory lists of their artifacts of creation – the digital or physical doodles or sketches, manifestos or proposals, early versions of a work, or even 3-D models or visualizations of an environment.

The primary goal of this research project is to come to a better understanding of the video game industry’s creation methods, behaviors, and attitudes for the purpose of building more meaningful models of preservation and collection of these materials. Most of the current preservation projects for new media and video games focus on the end products: the “final” art objects or the released video games themselves. Within the archival community, however, there is the realization that digital preservation starts with creation; it is impossible to reliably and authentically preserve an object without having a very good idea of the circumstances and particulars of that object’s creation. This project team hopes to shed light on those conditions. We believe that the products of this research project will support better collection, access and preservation of these significant and important cultural artifacts.

Additional and specific project benefits include:

  1. The development of inventory lists of creative artifacts. Collecting institutions currently have very little idea of what they will be receiving when they begin collecting these materials, and even less idea about how to describe or provide meaningful access to them. The information gathered from the inventory lists will give collecting institutions a clear idea of how much, and what kinds of materials are typical in the development process, and will help these institutions plan accordingly.
  2. Development of models and guidelines for further research in this area. New media is a burgeoning field, and collecting institutions will need to conduct further research in this area. Recording the processes and challenges encountered by this project team will encourage and support future work for those archivists, curators, and librarians who collect video games and similar types of materials, like: new media art, science and engineering data and artifacts, and output from other fields of new media development.
  3. Theory development on the concept of “authorship” within new media. Video game development is an exceptionally collaborative process, and is significantly different from the traditional artistic model, (or even the model of new media art) where one or two people collaborate to create the aesthetic experience, or work. The interviews and observations will provide valuable information for scholars interested in the concept of authorship in new media. Again, this will lead to better collection development, access, description, and preservation of these materials; but will also provide the opportunity for theory development within the field of new media, communication, and information science.

With permission from project participants, all of the collected materials: digital audio interviews, their transcripts, case study reports of the interviews at the studio and individual level (if the interviews are considered too intrusive by participants or the corporation that employs them), observation transcripts, and creation artifacts will be made freely available on the Internet, through the Video Game Archive, housed at the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. This project, based at the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, will be led by Megan Winget, who has extensive experience with project management, digital library design and development, and representation of complex digital artifacts. Her research strengths include digital preservation, specifically of new media art; and in addition to holding a Doctorate in Information and Library Science; Professor Winget has a Master’s degree in the History of Art, with a focus on contemporary aesthetic theory. Brenda Gunn, the Center for American History’s Associate Director for Research and Collections, and Video Game Archive’s Project Manager, will be the archival manager for this research project, ensuring the development of viable and dependable models of collection, preservation, and access.

Massively multiplayer online video games are important and significant cultural artifacts. Not only are they worthy of meticulous and robust collection, representation, and preservation; it will increasingly become more and more important for collecting institutions to provide access to these materials. This project will support that endeavor, by talking to and observing those people work in the industry to provide much needed information on the creative process, the artifacts of creation, and to build models of collection, preservation and access that will be pertinent not only for the video game industry, but for other new media fields as well.


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Time May 17, 2014 at 9:57 am

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