Play it again: preserving Australian videogame history

Play it again: preserving Australian videogame history

I’m happy to announce that we have received funding for the preservation  of Australian videogames of the 1990s.

This is a joint research project with Flinders University (South Australia),  RMIT University (Victoria), Swinburne University (Victoria), Australian Centre for the Moving Image, AARNet P/L,  UNESCO PERSIST and OpenSLX GmbH.

This project aims to document, preserve, and exhibit the history of the Australian videogame industry during the 1990s. The challenge of preserving and accessing complex digital cultural heritage such as software is one that collecting institutions worldwide are facing. By recovering the history of Australian made videogames of the 1990s, preserving significant local digital game artefacts currently at risk, and investigating how these can be exhibited as playable software using the latest emulation techniques, the project expects to generate new knowledge needed by government and industry to inform future strategy and infrastructure investment aimed at making a range of digital cultural heritage available to the public.

Games and other software became more complex during the 1990s. Standard computer environments were no longer enough to execute a game. More specialised additional software was required, such as dlls (data link libraries), graphic and sound card drivers. Much digital preservation research to date has concentrated on end products generated by software rather than the software digital object itself. When only the software program is available without the accompanying installation information or files, the computer environment in which the program should best be executed is not easily discovered. Tools need to be developed to discover and document all the requirements for an optimum emulated system that takes into account a multitude of factors (operating system, interface, code, metadata, driver files, etc) needed to emulate a preserved game artefact.

The cultural research team begins from the premise that videogames are not just software or hardware artefacts; digital games are understood as a set of played experiences embedded in wider cultures and communities of use. The 1990s saw the rise of a local studio culture and bold experimentation in the crossover space between cinema and videogames. While focused firmly on digital games, we will attend to the cultural and historical milieu in which game-makers negotiated a changing technology and business scene, collaborating with industries such as film, as well as the player practices around games, including experiments in networked community and what players made and did with these products.


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