More archives to come
Video games are a young industry, and the entire history of the medium fits into the space of just a few decades. Even though the industry at large always seems to be focused on the Next Big Thing, there are a few who are committed to preserving the history of the medium so that future generations can learn from the past.
Frank Cifaldi is a former games journalist and developer, probably best known from his time at Gamasutra and 1UP. I first became aware of him and his interest in video game history through the Retronauts podcast. You may also have seen his GDC talk from last year about emulation. He’s been working to help archive games and their ephemera for nearly two decades, spending his own money to purchase unreleased titles and make sure they’ll still be available in the future. You can read about these efforts on his website, LostLevels.org.
Late last year, Frank teamed up with some other game archivists and historians to found the Video Game History Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the past of video games: not just the code, but the printed materials, advertisements, and other artifacts surrounding games. The foundation launched its first project today, a digital archive of pamphlets and ads surrounding the rollout of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985.
Preserving games is often thankless work, and it can sometimes be difficult to work with collectors who want to own the only known copy of a given item. Preservation efforts also have to work against “bit rot,” the breakdown of physical media like magnetic tape and CD-ROMs.
To celebrate the launch and help get the word out, IGN partnered with the foundation to show off some of the rare games preserved by the efforts of historians, and games like Daytona: Netlink Edition, a Final Fantasy 2 (NES) prototype, and a rare PC title called Where in North Dakota is Carmen Sandiego? were streamed. If you’d like to contribute to the foundation, they’ve set up a Patreon, or you can make a tax-deductible donation directly through the website.