Many US-released games that we grew up with and love are out of print, which is a problem for those who want to preserve and chronicle the country’s computing past.
After some research, the Video Game History Foundation this week published I finish 87% of classic games published in America are “seriously endangered”. Much of the early history of computing is at stake — not to mention some crack computer games, said Phil Salvador, director of the foundation’s library. register Monday.
To be clear: it’s not that a large percentage of classic games are simply unreachable. They can be found on eBay, second-hand stores, pirate download sites, or on loan from a friend, for example. Nearly nine out of ten, according to the History Foundation, were not released. In contrast, with stacks of movies, books, and other media, you can still get them legally today, even if they’re decades old.
If you can’t get your hands on an old game and don’t want to resort to piracy, you can go to a bookstore to find a title – but even then you can’t borrow it digitally like you can with books. , movies and audio, due to US copyright law, we are told. We imagine you’ll have to play the title there in person, like it’s a museum piece, or maybe even rent it physically. Or find a real museum with the program.
We’re told this means that many older video games tend to remain in private collections, museums and libraries, requiring physical access. This is not ideal for searching the date. One of the largest archives of titles is held by the mighty National Toy Museum, which was founded by wealthy philanthropist Margaret Woodbury Strong. It’s a valuable resource, although you’ll have to travel to Rochester, New York, if you want to delve into the collection.
“We’re not advocating giant free digital arcades,” Salvador told us. “It’s like studying film – to understand the specifics of the medium. »
The crux of the matter is the restrictions put in place by the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prevents games from being loaned digitally by libraries and other institutions. These organizations are authorized to hold titles, but for on-site games.
The Foundation has provided a broad net for granted in its definition of “classic”, and goes into detail regarding its methodology here. He just believes 13 percent Some of the oldest games published in the United States are still legally printed and sold.
That’s not too surprising, Salvador said, because companies will pull things off the shelves as soon as they expire, although leaving that to market forces could mean the loss of important artifacts in the history of the computer science.
The game outfits are seen to have re-released old titles, sometimes we get the originals and sometimes the remastered or updated versions. And that’s great, even if it still leaves a lot of material locked away in collections, and decisions about such reissues are probably not best left to for-profit executives in the first place.
“The industry has done a good job promoting some of the older software, but that’s less than 20% of games,” Salvador added. “I don’t want to demonize the industry – what they’re doing is good business sense – but we can’t rely on that on the historical record. »
The foundation hopes the US Copyright Office will add computer games to its list of products exempt from the research restriction. Unfortunately, according to the foundation, entertainment industry lawyers say the companies are doing a pretty good job of preserving legacy code — though this study disputes that.
The next round of DMCA updates will be in 2024. Over the years, the US administration has relaxed copyright rules in certain areas, including a few. Small concessions for video games. Perhaps a fundamental change will happen to the players in the end. ®