If you Google "timeline of video game history," you will more than likely be met with a link to the Museum of Play, the "largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play." The International Center for the History of Electronic Games and the World Video Game Hall of Fame both call this museum their home, providing a haven for research and the recognition of electronic gaming and its impact on modern culture.
Why is it so important that we have institutions like these? Why should we support the dedication of scholars and journalists to the historical preservation of gaming?
The most basic answer: it’s an endlessly cool subject. I may be biased as a History major, but the events and objects of the past that show how we’ve gotten to where we are today are endlessly fascinating. The building blocks of the video game industry, as with any industry or medium, are full of stories of engineering genius and human creativity (the sorely missed warmth and passion of Satoru Iwata provide many examples). Historical preservation allows people who are truly excited by gaming to explore their interests, learn about the medium they love and possibly take part in the industry’s future.
Similar to film, music and literature, video gaming has developed and changed greatly over time. While the gaming industry may be the youngest of these forms of entertainment, it has very rapidly become a dominating force in pop culture. The amount of fervor and opinion surrounding various games and consoles runs the gamut from childish Internet arguments all the way to high-brow scholarly debates. Industry analysts research the monetary impact of different happenings in the medium while journalists and critics ponder the cultural impacts and quality of these products. The games themselves have grown into such a complex variety of narratives and objectives, play-styles and lengths, that there is a game for everyone.
What was once an industry dedicated to simple games and digital toys has blossomed into a medium of lifelong passion and artistic expression. Art and technology intermingle as artists and computer engineers work alongside writers, actors and composers to create sprawling worlds and unique narratives. Independent developers work tirelessly to create quirky and creative passion projects, while online fan communities come together to preserve the stories and codes of the past. Video games have gone through the growing pains of legal troubles and censorship (which still persist today) as well as looming economic stagnation. Multiple generations worth of childhoods have been affected by gaming, resulting in a shared, warm nostalgia for these digital landscapes.
None of these things happened overnight. Every game, console and company has been built upon hard work, imagination and the eternal human desire to create. As in the worlds of books and movies, there are a great many who find themselves emotionally invested in video games. In such a burgeoning industry full of creativity and experimentation (where technology and art collide with unprecedented audience interaction), the need to preserve for the present and the future is of the utmost importance.