Video Game Preservation | On The Level: NG+ Gaming News


In late September, the National Film
and Sound Archive here in Australia announced that it would begin adding
video games to its collection of notable Australian film,
television and audio. At last, we have a seat at the table,
right next to important Australian works like Picnic at Hanging Rock and
the bum dance from Big Brother season one. It aims to have every Australian video game
in its archive Yes, even that game you made on your
graphics calculator that just made the screen read “FARTS” over and over. But for now it is beginning with eight games ranging from groundbreaking games like
The Hobbit and Shadowrun to modern indie titles including
Hollow Knight and Florence. All the games in the first eight are worthy
of being archived but I did notice one glaring omission. UMPIRE: Out of bounds, on the full. All rise for the national anthem
of Australian gaming. But it’s still good to see a body such as
the National Film and Sound Archive act to preserve gaming history, because without the
preservation efforts of this and other entities, we risk losing our gaming history to the ether. Before I go on, I should briefly explain
what game preservation is because it is much more than merely keeping
an old Nintendo 64 cartridge in a box in your parent’s garage, defending it
to the death whenever hard rubbish day comes. Game preservation involves
maintaining ageing hardware archiving a game files and source code even digitising a game’s promotional materials because, let’s face it, society would be
a whole lot worse off if we lost this. KID 1: We can play it on my Nintendo Entertainment
System. KID 1 (90s rapping): # It’s The Legend of Zelda
and it’s really rad # KID 1: # Those creatures from Ganon
are pretty bad # KID 1: # Octorks, Tektites and Leevers, too # KID 1: # But with your help, our hero pulls through # KID 1: Yeah. Go Link, yeah. Get some. KID 2: Awesome! (90s rapping) # My name is Zelda and I’m here to say
The nineteen nineties were… # a blight on cultural history. # …In a terrible way! # And this goes to why game preservation efforts
are so important. Gaming is a relatively young artform, and
it is important to have a record of the pioneering experiments and
awkward mistakes of our early days. It’s as valuable as looking up your old
MySpace page. The unique problem faced by games, however,
is that so much of its early history is stored on physical media like floppy discs and CD-ROMs,
which degrade over time. Decades of history and knowledge rotted away an effect only matched by
watching five minutes of The Bachelorette. You would think that publishers should have
a copy of everything in their warehouses, right? If you said yes, viewer I wish I shared
your bright-eyed optimism. Early game developers were very bad
at archiving their source code. Even as recently as the 1990s, Sqaresoft would
routinely delete code after shipping a game This even applied to Final Fantasy. I’m guessing that’s why they had to go
the long way around and remake Final Fantasy VII. At least developers nowadays are better
at keeping their source code. And with games moving to digital, that should
mean that every game is playable forever. …Right? If you said yes this time, viewer, have you not seen
…this entire world? Nowadays, games disappear for
the dumbest reasons. Konami single-handedly took down PT
to personally spite Hideo Kojima There was that one time that
Epic Games deleted Fortnite I’m guessing because Epic CEO Tim Sweeney
got particularly salty after losing in the final circle. And then there’s the iPhone. In 2017, iOS stopped supporting
apps and games coded in 32-bit. Admittedly, Apple had been requiring developers
to submit apps in 64-bit since 2015 but not every developer has had the ability
or interest in updating their apps which meant that in 2017,
we lost a whole swath of mobile gaming history including Infinity Blade, Flappy Bird,
and that fake beer drinking app. We were so easily amused back then. And this year, the 64-bit edict was extended
to MacOS which means that modern day Macs
will no longer run older games. So much for the Steve Job’s old adage of
“It just works.” Although, if you go over
the history of his speeches he never applied thismessage to iTunes. Even Steve Jobs would’ve rather used Winamp. There is one game which ties all of this together:
Flight Control. Released in 2009, this game was at the forefront
of mobile gaming. It was instrumental in developing the language
by which we interact with touchscreen games it proved that mobile gaming can be as successful
as its console counterparts and it was made right here in Australia. Turns out we can make more
than just Tim Tams and killer animals. However, if you want to download Flight Control today,
you will find…nothing. Apple’s 64-bit rule meant that it had to be updated
in order to remain on the App Store. Flight Contol’s publisher EA
did not do this. In fact, EA removed it and 16 other games
from the App Store stating that it would focus on
“developing new and exciting titles as well as bringing new content and updates
to existing popular games.” And we all know how that turned out. It is a damned shame that in order to play
this game, you have to dig out your old iPhone and hopefully not shred your fingers
on the cracked glass. Flight Control is a contemporary parable of
hardware obsolescence and corporate indifference leading to important gaming history
being lost. But we are in a better time now. Companies in the gaming world have learned
from the mistakes of the past well…most of them. And more public and non-for-profit institutions
are doubling down on game archiving meaning that records of modern gaming,
even MMOs, will be preserved. Thanks to these efforts, our children’s
children will know what games were like …before they they all had loot boxes
and battle passes. And that is everything that has happened
in the world, ever. (90s rapping) # Game preservation is here to stay # # so all your games are ready to play. #

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