BRIGHTON, UK--When asked "What is your favourite game?" the answer is certain to be different for every person. With a history dating back several decades and across numerous formats that are prone to physical deterioration, organisers of Nottingham's GameCity festival Iain Simons and James Newman recognised a need to develop an archive to preserve video game culture for future generations. They presented a session at the Develop conference in Brighton titled "Making Videogame History: Starting the National Videogame Archive" and explained why they believed this project is of merit.
The National Videogame Archive was announced in October last year, during GameCity. According to the NVA's mandate, it was created to "collect, interpret, make accessible for study and research and, where possible, exhibit videogames and the associated ephemera relating to or evidencing videogame cultures."
Simons revealed the NVA began as "an accidental project" that came about after the duo published 100 Videogames, part of the BFI's Screen Guides series. Despite already starting to build a collection of classic games, Simons stressed that the NVA will be "an archive, not a museum," when it officially opens in 2011. There was an indication that it may grow into one at some stage, as Simons corrected his previous statement that NVA as a museum is "not what it is yet."
The Archive was created in partnership with the National Media Museum's New Media Collection and will draw on its curatorial expertise and conservation teams to help collect, archive, and preserve games. However, Simons said they're interested in "more than [videogame] code," and will consider donations of anything related to video game culture, including "fan texts, box art, manuals, advertising, and marketing and merchandising materials that support and that give [games] meaning and context." They are also seeking other items including prerelease code and development consoles from studios, in addition to cosplay outfits and copies of old games magazines.
The Archive has already collected numerous games and some unique items, such as the first Sony PlayStation EyeToy camera to be developed (complete with "#1" engraved on it) and prototype controllers for Harmonix's Rock Band. Despite this, both Simons and Newman admit they're not completionists and are selectively collecting titles deemed to be of cultural relevance.
A video project they've undertaken for the project combines developer commentaries with gameplay footage, and they have successfully recorded one such session with Rare's David Doak, involving one of his most respected creations, GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64.
The collection is currently kept, in part, at the National Media Museum where members of the public can view the archive by request. To get involved or donate relevant artifacts visit the National Videogame Archive Web site.