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Getting Serious About Preserving Games

Ithaca, NY Before there were sophisticated online multi-player games with realistic graphics and entire virtual worlds, children and some adults were playing in gaming parlors and through low-tech analog TVs connected to hand-held control devices. Classic favorites such as PacMan and Tetris may survive into the future because new versions are still available and in use. Less well-known games may not survive beyond their commercial shelf-life. Saving “virtual worlds” from extinction, an article by Matthew Lasar in ars technica ( reviews the University of Illinois efforts to preserve a dozen games at the Preserving Virtual Worlds web site ( which is due to launch in August 2010.
Just because games are no longer in use does not mean that they were not culturally and economically significant at one time. Jerome McDonough, Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois says, “…Games are important. In the United States we’re looking at about 80,000 people who are directly employed by the gaming industry and maybe another 240,000 people involved in related, tangential industries that rely on gaming companies for their existence. So just as a monetary phenomenon, games are important. You probably saw the sales for Modern Warfare? We’re talking a single game that realized over a billion dollars in sales. Sort of shows on a monetary level the importance that games have taken within our economy.”
The Preserving Virtual Worlds project is conducting investigations into how best to archive games. The University of Illinois IDEALS institutional repository based on DSpace is one of the repositories that will be tested to determine how to manage the complex metadata associated with preserving games.