After a 17-year run, the heroic fantasy MMORPG Asheron’s Call shut down at the end of January. For the first five of those years, I was an avid player and Sho adventurer in the lands of Dereth. Sadly, back then, I didn’t know about things such as screenshots and video capturing, because I would have loved being able to save and record many hours of that excellent gameplay that now only exists within my aging memory.
Former video game journalist and editor Frank Cifaldi had the insight and tools to counter the problem of vanishing video game history, and recently launched The Video Game History Foundation. Cifaldi has been archiving video games and their related materials since 1998, and through the VGHF, hopes to, “make sure that storytellers have what they need to be able to tell the story of video games.”
The Video Game History Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to cataloging, digitizing, and preserving the history of video games. According to the VGHF website (quoted throughout this article), the VGHF has set about accomplishing its mission statement goals through four main tasks: a digital library, a physical reference collection, aiding established museums with their video game materials, and educating the public on the whys and hows of video game preservation.
At the heart of the VGHF is an, “online repository of artifacts related to the history of video games and video game culture.” It allow researchers, historians, and the general public access to the collected materials. Starting off, the most essential items are being collected, such as, “data stored on media formats not meant for long-term storage (CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, EPROMs, magnetic disks)”, along with rare, one-of-a-kind, and difficult to obtain materials.
Digitized video, marketing and PR materials, official game packaging and documents (such as game manuals), screenshots, advertisements, and internal documents from game developers and publishers are just a few items that are already being added. The VGHF Digital Library isn’t online yet, but special collections will be curated and posted online in the future.
Cifaldi will be donating his own massive video and PC game-specific magazines and periodicals collection to seed the establishment of the VGHF reference collection. This video game library is set to be built somewhere on the US west coast, and will house books, consumer and trade magazines specifically related to video games, “as well as publications where video games are not the primary focus, including coin-op, toy, and consumer electronics magazines.”
The VGHF has no plans for becoming an official museum, but it will aid and facilitate in preserving and digitizing video game artifacts. Many of the VGHF’s board members have spent years doing this already, through working with “the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Strong Museum of Play, and the National Videogame Museum, among others.”
The VGHF will also help educate those interested in preserving video game history on ways and means of doing so, by highlighting “the types of artifacts that historians and researchers rely on”, and just as importantly, by helping the public become aware of why this is important.
If you’re looking for more information, Cifaldi and VGHF co-founder Steve Lin were recent guests on IGN’s Save Point Live Stream for their first official fundraising event. The almost 5-hour stream focused on showing and playing games that are rare, cancelled, unreleased, forgotten preview builds, and others. Using those games as examples, Cifaldi and Lin talked about how important video game preservation is.
If preserving video game history sounds like an excellent endeavor to you, the VGHF has a Patreon page where you can support them with donations. You can sign up for the VGHF newsletter on the website, and connect to the VGHF on Facebook.
Are you already supporting the Video Game History Foundation? How important is preserving video game history to you? What personal video game memories and memorabilia would you like to preserve? Let us know in the comments below!
Header Image credit: The Video Game History Foundation