Almost all classic US video games ‘severely endangered’

Many of the games released in the United States that we grew up with and loved are out of print, which is a pity for those looking to preserve and document the nation’s computer past.

After some research, the Video Game History Foundation this week concluded 87% of classic games published in the US are «critically endangered». Phil Salvador, the organization’s library director, says: Register in Monday.

Just to be clear: it’s not impossible to get a great percentage of the classic games. They can be found on eBay, in thrift stores, or pirated download sites or lent from a friend, for example. That’s almost nine in ten, by historical background, unreleased. Contrast that with the piles of movies, books, and other media that you can still legally own today, even if they’re decades old.

If you can’t get your own copy of the old game and don’t want to turn to piracy, you can go to the library to find the title – but even then, you can’t borrow it as digitally as you can with books, movies, and audio, under US copyright law, we know. We imagine you’ll have to play the game in person, as if it were a museum piece, or maybe rent it out physically. Or find an actual museum with software.

We’ve been told this means that many older video games tend to be in private collections, museums and libraries, requiring physical access. This is not good for historical research. One of the largest archives of titles is maintained by the Strong National Museum of Play, founded by wealthy philanthropist Margaret Woodbury Strong. It’s a valuable resource, although you’ll have to fly to Rochester, New York if you want to delve into the collection.

Salvador told us: “We don’t argue about massive free-to-play digital games. «It’s comparable to studying film – to understand the specifics of the medium.»

At the heart of the matter are restrictions put in place by the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prevent libraries and other organizations from lending games in digital form. Those agencies are allowed to keep the titles despite playing the game on site.

The foundation has spawned a broad network that is recognized in its definition of «classical» and goes into detail on its methodology here. It believes that only 13 percent of older games published in the US are still legally printed and sold.

That shouldn’t be too surprising, Salvador said, since companies will take stock off shelves when it’s past its peak, although leaving this to market forces can lead to the loss of goodies. importance of computing history.

It should be noted that gaming skins have been re-released of old titles and sometimes we get originals and sometimes re-releases or updated versions. And that’s great, although it still leaves a lot of material locked in collections, and it’s probably best not to leave these re-release decisions to primarily for-profit moderators.

«The industry has done a great job promoting some of the older software, but that number is less than 20% of the game,» added Salvador. «I don’t want to ruin the industry – what they’re doing is good business sense – but we can’t rely on that to record history.»

The Foundation hopes the US Copyright Office will add computer games to its list of products that are exempt from restrictions for research purposes. Unfortunately, the organization says, entertainment industry lawyers argue that corporations are doing a good job preserving the old rule – although this study may argue against that.

The next round of DMCA updates will take effect in 2024. Over the years, the US government has relaxed copyright regulations in several areas, including some small concessions to video games. death. Perhaps the last significant change will come to gamers. ®

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