From The Collection: Introduction

There seems to be a lot of discussion at the moment about defining the language we use to describe gaming and more broadly defining the culture. One of the things we worry about here is how we preserve gaming. It's a medium we're still in the position to save most of but very little is being done to preserve it. 

This recent Extra Credits video rather nicely sums up some of the major barriers to preserving the physical stuff of games. We aren't ardent institutionalists but we'd really like to see gaming museums seriously explore preserving and celebrating (museums are more than just historical archives). Museums have started to look at gaming and there have been a number of exhibitions on or incorporating gaming but to date there hasn't been an concentrated effort on displaying gaming for it's own sake. The Smithsonian exhibition The Art of Video Games and the Game On exhibition at the Science Museum were both good starts and both the Victoria Albert Museum and the Design Museum have featured games in exhibitions about design. The UK does have a national collection but this is not gaming. These are merely the devices in which we use to access gaming worlds.

None of these exhibitions really explore or celebrate gaming on it's own merit. What is gaming? It's so many things. It's the hardware and it's the software. But it's also cosplay, action figures, comics, film, blogs, books, novelisations, websites, manifestos, flash mobs, LAN parties, e-sports, one of the most active online communities, critics, coders, stories, anecdotes, flame wars, hackers and more. Where do you even start trying to capture all of this activity that we can call gaming? Why is it that the hobbyists are leading the way in preserving and celebrating this culture? From Robert Ashley's oral history/oral exhibitions series A Life Well Wasted to the thousands of people who give up their own times to keep older games playable, often illegally and often without the support of the original developers (if the rights of the game haven't vanished into thin air) to the thousands of gamers who write and produce videos and fanzines promoting older games. This is one of the things that frustrates us most about the current 'game industry'. Games journalists, publishers and developers would have you forget about today's games in order to get you to buy what's new and a certain part of the gaming community happily buys into being the ever consumer, demanding new games and discarding old ones to the extent that some of them have convinced themselves that games older than year 'aren't worth playing' or are 'unplayable' because they don't have online play or HD graphics. They are avatars of the marketeers and for my liking too promiscuous in the message boards and fora where the gaming community exists. 

Preserving games and the material culture of games is clearly something that, one of our favourite writers, Robert Florence occasionally thinks about. This brief diary entry accurately sums up our fears and worries about the 'collection' we have stashed away in cupboards and crannies. The collectors amongst us will know this sentiment, quoted in full from this Cardboard Children over at Rock Paper Shotgun

We have too many toys. I think it’s been the Steam Summer Sale that has made me think about all of this. I’ve bought maybe thirty games, and I don’t have enough lifetimes to play all of them. I’m just used to having nice things, and buying them when I want them. I do the same with board games. I do the same with action figures. I do the same with everything. I have too much shit, and not enough time. I have too many toys.
When I was young I didn’t have too many toys. I just had some toys. And, in truth, some was plenty. Some is all anybody ever needs. Too many is useless, unworkable, whereas some is exactly the right number.
I have a writer friend who once got rid of all his stuff. He had loads of Star Wars shit, and collectible stuff, and toys and crap. All that stuff we have. And one day he just got rid of it all. Why? Because, as he said, “It’s just more stuff to go in the skip when you die.” It was Donald McLeary who said it. One of the funniest and most brutally honest men I know.
It's kipple. But I guess people like Robert and Us aren't even the hardcore collectors. I'm amazed at the levels some collectors go to collect different versions of games. I remember seeing a poster on NeoGAF proudly display three versions of the same DoA game (4 maybe) that they'd added to their collection. Apparently each one had been slightly rebalanced and there were some regional differences. Now you could say that that person has too much time and money. Alternatively, I'd say that person was a hardcore curator of games. Then there's nuts like this and this. That last guy has a collection and knowledge exceeding the UK's national collection. But these dedicated individuals aren't alone. Collecting games is a whole series of museums events and exhibitions alone.

But this is just the stuff of gaming and as cool as it is, it is only half the story. It's the gamers, their stories, thoughts and feelings that make gaming. We'll be running this new series under the tag From The Collection to explore our meagre collection but also as a place to collect our stories, thoughts and reflections so that when we die, when the council are cleaning out our squat they can give all our kipple and these reflections to the National Video Game Archive and hopefully they'll get their arses in gear. 


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