Preserving the Legacy of Gun*Nac
A recent report by the Video Game History Foundation, in collaboration with the Software Preservation Network, has shed light on a concerning statistic: 87% of games are currently out of production and unavailable in the market, earning them a designation of “Critically Endangered.” The full methodology of the study can be found here.
As a passionate collector with an extensive game closet, this initially struck me as odd. However, I am aware that not everyone has the means or access to build a collection like mine. Most people rely on what is available in stores and digital marketplaces, which, according to the report, constitutes only 13% of gaming’s overall history. It’s disheartening to think that such a large majority of games are effectively inaccessible to the general public.
This issue becomes more alarming when we consider the impact it would have had on other forms of media. Imagine if iconic albums like The Beatles’ Abbey Road or classic films like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho ceased to exist beyond their initial release. While other mediums face similar challenges, none compare to the scale of this problem in the video game industry.
Currently, piracy remains the only option for many people to experience games like my beloved Gun*Nac or Rule of Rose. Publishers and developers understandably discourage this route, but it’s unfair to ask people to deny themselves an exploration of this fascinating aspect of their hobby. It’s a disrespectful approach that fails to acknowledge the importance of preserving gaming history.
Preserving Gaming’s Heritage – Adopt a Game Today
A major obstacle in the preservation of these games is the differing hardware platforms they were built on, which complicates efforts to make them compatible with modern systems. The lack of foresight in the early days of the industry regarding the future accessibility of these games has resulted in this challenge.
Fortunately, there are potential solutions, such as granting libraries the ability to build and lend game collections, similar to how they handle movies and music. However, there has been resistance to this idea from various parties. The recent court case involving the Internet Archive’s sharing of e-books, which went against the organization, could have serious repercussions for their preservation efforts in other areas, including gaming.
While publishers occasionally release game collections, like the notable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection from Konami, or distribute games individually through services like Nintendo’s Switch Online, these efforts alone do not adequately address the problem. They are merely drops in the bucket compared to the overall volume of critically endangered games.
Promoting Preservation Efforts
Publishers, often driven by financial considerations, are unwilling to release games that could potentially reduce the profitability of their existing titles or bring embarrassment to their brand. Consequently, games like previous iterations of Animal Crossing from Nintendo or The Sims series from EA remain locked away. However, each of these games holds significant value to fans of their respective series.
Currently, publishers lack a comprehensive solution or genuine interest in preservation. Furthermore, legal complexities impede institutions from effectively addressing this issue. The report’s intention is to underscore the need for change, but unfortunately, in a world where financial gain takes precedence over enrichment, meaningful progress is limited.
This leaves us with emulation and piracy as the most effective means of preserving these games. Unfortunately, these methods are often stigmatized as copyright infringement and illegitimate, resulting in the shutdown of dedicated websites. If publishers truly want to combat this trend, they must take proactive steps toward preserving gaming history or reconsider their stance altogether.
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Basant Kasayap is an entertainment aficionado who delves into the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry. From Hollywood to Bollywood to regional cinema, she offers readers an insider’s perspective on the world of movies, music, and pop culture.