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GDC08: Preserving Games, day 2

Today's session of the Preserving Games panel dealt mostly with the issue of preserving not-games. More specifically, game-related material in the possession of developers -- design documents, contracts, notes, emails, and any minutiae that they may not even realize is worth keeping. This also went along with yesterday's talk of gathering oral histories. Warren Spector led the discussion for the most part, bringing up his work for a game design class at the University of Texas, during which time he brought in developers to tell their stories. His contention, and one that was shared by most of the group, is that the playable games themselves are trivial to preserve compared to the rarer materials, which also provide a historical record of the development process.

Developers from Midway Games, Maxis, Obsidian, and Vicarious Visions mentioned their collections and their efforts to keep both a stock of games and of their own design materials. Former Maxis programmer Don Hopkins talked about the recent open-source release of Sim City and challenged other developers to do the same as a way of preserving the code. The group decided that a white paper should be produced, to describe to developers and publishers the reasoning behind collecting and preserving the game-design resources.

The IGDA Game Preservation SIG isn't just for Warren Spector! It's for anyone with an interest in maintaining the history of video games. Do you want to help with the white paper, or the wiki? Check out the wiki or contact the SIG via email. And have a look at the University of Texas Center for American History's Video Game Archive to see game preservation in action.

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