Even The Library of Congress Has a Hard Time Preserving Old Games

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Game designers and enthusiasts have, for many years, faced the challenges of preserving history in a digital medium. Source code and original designs for a project get lost over time, or data storage methods change and degrade.


Gamers, though, aren't the only ones facing those challenges. Professional preservationists have their hands full trying to maintain rapidly aging technology. No less an institution than the Library of Congress faces enormous challenges in preserving game culture, the Washington Post reports:

Rise of the Dragon was a video game released in 1990. It is about a private detective who sets off to find the drug kingpin responsible for the death of the mayor's daughter. It came on a stack of six-inch floppy disks, which meant that it was played on a belligerent, boxy computer, a pile of tan plastic with a bubble screen and keys that got gummy and grimy and needed a Q-Tip.

Rise of the Dragon was designed to be played on precisely the machine that you finally sold at that garage sale nine years ago. No right-thinking person would still own this game.

The Library of Congress owns it.

The Library has long preserved books, and began preservation and archiving of film many years ago, but maintaining and preserving newer media still present challenges. Digital information — not only retail games and other software, but the constantly shifting sands of the internet — changes forms nearly daily. Librarians tasked with retaining valuable information from every medium from tape cartridges to Pinterest have their work cut out for them.

Rise of the Dragon may not be a game that shows up in everyone's top ten personal canon, but it, and thousands of others like it, are out there slowly wasting away. Every game the Library of Congress manages to save is one more piece of gaming history we get to keep.

Library of Congress's collection preserves history of American culture [Washington Post]

(Top photo: Flickr user ajmexico)



I wonder what they do for DLC, locked on-disc content, online verification, account requirements or always-online DRM in today's modern games.