Preserving Virtual Worlds: Saving game content for the future

Digital PreservationDid you ever think that there should be an official museum, library, or hall of fame for videogames? It’s an idea that I’ve long pondered, and now the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Maryland, Stanford, Rochester Institute of Technology and Linden Lab are joining forces to do something along those lines.

Under the Digital Preservation initiative of the Library of Congress, these institutions will be working together on a project called Preserving Virtual Worlds. The goals of the project are as follows:

"Our goal is to help develop mechanisms and methods for preserving digital games and interactive fiction by

1. developing basic standards for metadata and content representation; and
2. investigating preservation issues through a series of archiving case studies representing a) early games and literature and b) later interactive multi-player game environments.

Key deliverables include development of metadata schema and wrapper recommendations, the archiving of key representative content and the development of generalizable archiving approaches for preserving this content. Our approach is intended to address both the pressing need to preserve the bits and available representation information of early and significant works now, and the need to begin to address more difficult issues surrounding long-term preservation of more recent multi-player interactive virtual worlds."

So it seems the final outcome of this effort may not be the exhaustive cataloging and archiving of all videogames since the medium’s introduction, placed together physically in one location (which I think would be awesome), but is more a way to preserve the actual experience of each game and the virtual worlds held within their code. The idea is that as time marches on and technology changes, it will one day be impossible to revisit the space INSIDE those digital works – mainly MMOGs.

I think this is a very good idea, because like too many ancient civilizations, the culture and society (in digital form) of each virtual world will undoubtedly be lost one day. I just hope this isn’t a case of Linden Labs selfishly trying to immortalize themselves and their product, Second Life.

I’d also really like to see that aforementioned library of videogame content, be it physical or digital.



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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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