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A post about preservation.

The video game industry is weird. Studios close at a somewhat frequent rate every year. 2014 alone has had at least 3 studio closures, with one of them being irrational games, makers if the award-winning BioShock series. To my memory last year there was about 4 closures, maybe more. It’s always sad when a studio closes, typically hundred of people are out of a job. Years of work on a title can be brushed aside if they were working on a game and that game will never see the light of day. Then there backlog of concept art and design doc, game prototypes, These game are lost to the sands of time. Never to be seen again.

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Unlike most art forms video games are hard to preserve. Art is physical. Most times it can be displayed in its original form. music is recorded and sold, with the original recordings stored away and the sheet music is copied and freely available to anyone. Film is a little harder but there will generally be copy’s of it floating around so it can be restored and saved. Its the ease and passion of people like the criterion collection, various museums and private collectors that have made preserving these mediums so easy. While video games are a whole other mess.

So now days we have some amazingly dedicated people using their free time and money to help preserve the past of the games industry. Doing things like ripping roms, scanning manuals, box art, magazines. So that future generations can see where game have come from, but what about the games of today? What about all those studios that close and there work that vanishes along with them? We have an opportunity to start preserving the history of these games, before it becomes a challenge for another generation.

Since most modern video games are just data stored on disks and servers, along with all the concept art and other items created during development. They, in theory should be easy to preserve. We don’t even have to save much, just enough to get the ideas, decisions and the challenges that happened during the development process.  Studios now could do a few little things today, that could preserve their creations and the history of them for the future.

The Art and Design
So this one is an easy one. Most studios do a lot of concept art for there games. A lot of it is done on computers, This also goes for design as well. The files of these concepts pieces and little design docs can be saved to the cloud, external storage, or printed. Most studios should opt for the cloud and external storage. The best thing about this is that you don’t necessarily need to have copy of everything, you can just have what you and your team believes to be the important pieces and documents.  

Models and animation
This is a little harder. However of the two animations are probably the easiest to document. an animation can be rendered out as a video, these videos can be uploaded to sites like youtube and vimeo. The base file can also be saved to the cloud or external storage, along with the rendered video files. Again a combination of cloud and external storage would be smart, as well as picking and choosing the most important pieces from the project.

The final Game    
Ok with digital distribution being as huge as it is it should be, in theory easy to have a copy of a games install files and save it to an external storage medium. Its really not that complicated. in theory.

Now if every game developer did this, once a week like a back up. Heck it is a back up! and at the end of a project when some people don’t have much or anything to do get them to sort through concept art, models and animations. Then save them in a format so it can be preserved. It doesn’t have to be everything but just enough that can be used to tell the story of the game development. Then we can make strides in sharing the history of this amazing medium.

Further Reading: 

Irrational games Vault: http://irrationalgames.com/insider/from-the-vault/
A Collection of old Material from pitch documents to concept art related to the games of irrational games.

Outerlands: http://area5.tv/#outerlands
A Series focusing on the storeys about video game culture and games them self’s.

Double Fine Adventure: http://www.doublefine.com/dfa
A documentary series documenting the devlopment of Broken Age (aka Reds, DFA)