Thomas Apperley and Jussi Parrika
The ‘Born Digital’ Archive: Rethinking Platform Studies Methodological Heuristic
Platform studies is a recent and prominent scholarly methodology for ‘born digital’ histories. The platform studies book series was introduced in 2009 with Racing the beam (Montfort & Bogost, 2009). The project was left deliberately open, but the book is the series retained a few common features: 1) a focus on a single platform; 2) a detailed investigation of the technologies; 3) a concern with how platforms are embedded in culture and society, and the reciprocal relations between platforms and culture/society.
Through a critical engagement with platform studies from the perspective of media archaeology this paper will argue that the method implicitly establishes an archive relevant to a particular platform from the available materials. This may include a collection of software, developer interviews, contemporary magazine and news articles, and even other paratexts. How this particular archive is produced varies from project to project, but the process of producing the archive shapes the perception of the platform immensely. This archive established through platform studies acts as a methodological heuristic that produces a historic and physical entity—the platform—that can be examined and mapped as a stable node within an otherwise unruly network of material and social/cultural relations.
In this paper we argue that by examining how the platform studies archive is produced highlights the role that the preservation of games and software has in shaping scholarly understanding of platforms and their historic context. Furthermore, platform studies archives strongly indicate that how ‘born digital’ texts are understood is contextualized through other contemporary non-digital texts, like magazines and box and cabinet art.
Keywords: digital archive, digital game, media archaeology, platform studies
Timothy Arnold and Walker Sampson
Digital Curation in the Age of Twitter
In 2011, Hosni Mubarak abdicated his position of president-for-life after peaceful protests across Egypt in which Egyptians used social media applications like Twitter to communicate directly with a global audience. Like many born-digital materials, tweets are ephemeral and there are no standards or best practices for their curation and preservation. Using the revolution in Egypt as a case study, this presentation will serve as a guide to collection developers who are interested in curating subject-centered collections of tweets. We will discuss how to collect tweets using Twitter’s application programming interface (API) as well as some collection development issues related to Twitter’s role in the Egyptian revolution. These issues include determining the scope of the collection, quantitative and qualitative collection methods, separating signal from noise, vernacular and formal languages, preserving collection provenance, and providing access. In order to present the kinds of materials that a subject-centered collection of tweets might include, we will also examine some actual tweets collected during the eighteen day revolution in Egypt.
Keywords: Twitter, Social Media, Arab Spring, Egypt, API, Born-Digital, Digital Curation, Digital Collections, Subject-Centered Collections
Enhancing C64 Emulator VICE – How to Break Things when Fixing Them
Enhancing C64 emulator VICE – How to break things when fixing them. The problem of lush implemented container formats for emulation and what communities will make out of them. Christian Bartsch explains the dangers and problems of community driven software engineering in regard to file formats used for long term preservation. Because copy protected media often uses recording scheme violations, which can’t be represented by most image formats, software gets hacked and modified to e.g. run in emulation. Fixes to the container format and / or the emulation engine will then render patched images useless. When addressing preservation of floppy media created for the C64, Softpres had to both enhance and modify the well known storage container. Softpres also had to reverse engineer data processing in a Commodore 1541 floppy drive and add missing circuitry to the emulation core of popular emulator VICE to make it behave like the original hardware. Because timing and behaviour of the floppy circuit are now more precise and very close to the original hardware, older G64 images patched to work with VICE (to circumvent limitations of the floppy emulation core of older versions of VICE) may now fail – without any indication of what was changed in the image to make it work in the first place.
Keywords: long term preservation, copy protection, image formats, open source
The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ and its Implications for Preservation of User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is a valuable source of documentary heritage and linguistic, demographic and interactional data. However the use and preservation of UGC is subject to increasingly stringent regulation. Worldwide, privacy problems generated by the internet have led to calls for amendment of existing data protection law. In response, legislative efforts have focused on the protection of individuals and strengthening rights of data subjects including those relevant to erasure in social networks and explicit consent. One high profile example is the European Commission (EC) proposal for the inclusion of a ‘right to be forgotten/ right to erasure’ (RTBF). The merits and feasibility of this right have been contested by various commentators and is now the subject of inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission. While objections based on the social implications of a RTBF are commonly framed in terms of freedom of expression, the risk a RTBF presents to the preservation of cultural heritage, especially that which originates from social media, remains largely unexamined. This paper analyses the EC’s proposal and speculates as to what are the implications of a RTBF for the preservation of user generated content.
Keywords: Right to be forgotten, Data protection, Privacy, User-Generated Content, Social Networking, Cultural heritage, Preservation, Research, Web 2.0
Computer Graphics Through the Screen of Strategic Studies Group
Australia’s second oldest gaming company, Strategic Studies Group (SSG) was established in 1982 and has been successfully making strategy games for the past thirty years. In that time there has been massive advances in computer graphics technology. From four colour machines to 8-bit colour display, through to millions of colours today. From tiny displays to screens being able to display HDTV and larger. The visual environment for games development and the techniques used to create graphics can be illustrated by examining some of the games that SSG have made over this time. This research paper will critically examine the development of computer graphics and techniques through the screen of SSG. Through a series of interviews with games developer Roger Keating, co-founder and current CEO of Strategic Studies Group; producer Gregor Whiley and artists Alister Lockhart and Fiona Chatteur, the history of games graphics, technologies and techniques and their influence on gameplay will be examined.
The Illusion of Movement
“The Illusion of Movement”: how much copyright protection should a video game receive?
Copyright issues continue to be an important feature of the Play it Again project. In particular, the complexity of the video game means that it is difficult to be certain precisely which of its parts are in fact protected by copyright law and under which category of copyright works they are, or should be, protected. Focusing on the decision of the UK Court of Appeal in Nova Productions v Mazooma Games Ltd  Bus LR (CA) (Mazooma) the paper will examine the question of whether or not a composite series of stills or frames which provide (within a video game) “the illusion of movement” should be protected by copyright.
In Mazooma the Court ruled that a series of still images in a game is not “a film” as defined in the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988 and is therefore not a category of copyrightable works. The Court noted that the individual bitmaps and frames in the game produced by Nova were protected by copyright as graphic or artistic works. However the defendant company, Mazooma, had not copied the underlying code or the individual frames but, rather, had created a similar end product (an “illusion of movement”) within its own game.
This ruling has serious implications for UK game developers, whose newly-created games are frequently cloned by unscrupulous competitors. Cloners are careful to avoid direct copying of frames, sounds, or computer code in their target video game; instead they copy the way in which the video game plays (“the gameplay”) including “the illusion of movement”.
The paper will discuss the potential implications of Mazooma for video games created in Australia and New Zealand.
Keywords: copyright, video game, film, illusion of movement, Mazooma.
Maria B. Garda
Demoscene Heritage Preservation in Central Europe
This paper discusses the existing strategies of the demoscene heritage preservation with a special focus on Central Europe, analysing region specific factors and local stories. It is one of the first attempts to study the demoscene phenomenon.
Demoscene constitutes an international creators community developing computer generated audio-visual presentations, such as ‘demos’ and ‘intros’. The ambition behind this digital art movement is to innovatively explore the full potential of computer hardware, either contemporary or former (e.g. Commodore 64). Producing demos demands from its makers (so called ‘sceners’) outstanding programming, artistic, and musical skills. Demoscene subculture influenced numerous artists and contributed to game design, electronic music, as well as computer animation.
The demoscene network protects its heritage and accumulates valuable historical artefacts. Non-profit international organizations, such as Scene.org or Pouet.net, are providing open access to very well organized demo directories. However, at the same time they are extremely hermetic to an outsider. Only recently has the situation been altered with the development of the new database paradigm, inspired by the IMDb.com. Demozoo is a private initiative that is scheduled to launch later in 2013 and will attempt to enrich the raw files with more socially oriented aspects.
As it is in the case of videogame preservation, it is of paramount importance not only to catalogue software (demos and intros) in digital libraries but also to include it in a broader historical and cultural context. The Polish Ksiega Parties website is a representative example of this trend. It collects personal stories concerning the local demoscene contests (the so called ‘parties’) that have been taking place in Poland since 1990.
Keywords: demoscene, preservation, digital archives, social media history
Maria B. Garda and Piotr Sitarski
New Media PRL: Alternative Usage of New Media Technology During the Decline of the People’s Republic of Poland
Although the final decade of the People’s Republic of Poland (in Polish: Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa, PRL) has been already thoroughly researched, the studies so far have mostly concentrated on the political and social discourses, thus neglecting the role of the media in which the latter have been articulated.
In the 1980s several new media platforms emerged and gained popularity in Poland. Many of them allowed their users to trespass the existing legal system (video and audio tapes copying, commercial and non-profit exchange networks of video cassettes or computer software, public video projections) or traditional media usage protocols (music compilations, fan dubbing, creating computer programs). We argue that these media practices themselves influenced political and social discourses in Poland during the last decade of communism.
By “new media” we mean interactive media, both analogue and digital, allowing their users to actively engage on the textual and social levels. This definition, although lately often challenged, reflects theoretical discussions of new media in the period of 1980s. It also emphasizes practical aspects of new media rather than their ontology.
This paper presents New Media PRL as a framework to investigate the relation between media and their users in the period of intensive technological and political transformation, using oral history as the basic method for collecting information on the use of media. We provide two case studies of media practices in the 1980s in Poland: exchange and exhibition networks of video cassettes in the science-fiction fan community and the culture of early computer sales.
Keywords: new media, diffusion patterns, Polish history
Craig Harrington and Denise de Vries
Software migration applied to Commodore BASIC video games
Search and Rescue: Saving the South Australian Web
Web archiving is a now well-established area of born-digital collecting practised in cultural institutions worldwide to combat the loss of online content. The State Library of South Australia has been capturing and archiving websites of South Australian significance to the National Library’s PANDORA web archive since 1999. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of SLSA’s web archiving activities over this period of time. Statistical metrics alone are insufficient gauges of the effectiveness of institutional web archiving. Additional subjective measures of enduring research or cultural significance are necessary to provide a more holistic approach to the effectiveness of web archiving at SLSA. As with paper-based collections, the value of archived websites may be more apparent to future researchers. This paper sets the success of SLSA’s web archiving initiatives within its legislative context and suggests strategies to improve the effectiveness of web archiving in South Australia.
It Is What It Is, Not What It Was: Making Born Digital Heritage
The preservation of digital media in the context of heritage work is both seductive and daunting. The potential replication of human experiences afforded by computation and realized in virtual environments is the seductive part. The work involved in realizing this potential is the daunting side of digital collection, curation, and preservation. In this lecture, I will consider two questions. First, Is the lure of perfect capture of data or the reconstruction of “authentic” experiences of historical software an attainable goal? And if not, how might reconsidering the project as moments of enacting rather than re-enacting provide a different impetus for making born digital heritage?
My Art, My Collection: Collecting, Curation and Creativity in Popular Art Communities
Researchers from social science, art and design and the humanities have begun to study image-based social networks such as DeviantArt and Tumblr for their unique properties and the relatively distinct social roles they perform for users. This paper extends the questions posed by this research to include the practices of users developing archives and galleries of their own artwork – especially popular art such as illustration, concept art, promo art, character pieces and digital comics.
While much of the research into these platforms understands and frames them as social networks, the amateur and independent artist logistics that are unique to the popular arts are also mappable as practices of self-curation and self-archiving. Because amateur and independent artists use these spaces to build new work, collect reference material and support friends participating in the same space, previously distinct categories of practice quickly blur.
This paper will examine how these communities – especially the game art community – have begun to use curation and quasi-archival practices as community events. For example, weekly challenges to artists to create new work based on a set artwork are then reflected through personal style. Images are then positioned by artists in the competition forums, in their personal folio sites and so on.
Aylish Wood’s work on the culture of digital image manipulation backgrounds this paper, while more specific work on DeviantArt through social science methods by authors such Nele Noppe’s transcultural study, and Almila Akdag Salah’s triangulated ‘image-user-network’ analysis provides points of comparison. This paper will focus on how videogame creativity is embodied in these networks by ‘seriality’ (after Marc Steinberg and David Surman’s subsequent extension of the term in reference to Pokémon fandom). This seriality in art practice and seriality between images helps digital artists form creative networks, build large reference galleries, take part in the reputation economies of social media, and curate their own work.
There and Back Again: A Case History of Writing The Hobbit
In 1981, two Melbourne University students were hired part-time to write a text adventure game. The result was the game “The Hobbit”, based on Tolkien’s book, which became one of the most successful text adventure games ever. “The Hobbit” was innovative in its use of non-deterministic gameplay, a full-sentence parser, the addition of graphics to a text adventure game and finally “emergent characters” – characters exhibiting apparent intelligence arising out of simple behaviours and actions – with whom the player had to interact in order to “solve” some of the game’s puzzles.
This paper is a case history of the development of “The Hobbit.” Little has been written about the development of the first generation of text-based computer games; this case history provides insight into this developmental period in computer game history. I describe the development process, the internal design, and the genesis of the ideas that made “The Hobbit” unique. I compare the development environment and the resulting game to the state-of-the-art in text adventure games of the time. Lastly, I discuss the legacy and recent revival of interest in the game.
Jessica Moran and Jay Gattuso
End to End Workflows for Collecting, Preserving and Providing Access to Born Digital Collections and the Limits of Digital Forensics
As institutions have begun seriously grappling with their born digital collections, archivists have turned to digital forensics for insight into procedures, tools, and software to aid in working with and managing born digital material. As others have pointed out1 the fields of digital forensics and archives and digital preservation share many of the same preoccupations with integrity and authenticity of the digital records in our custodianship, and there are practices and procedures that we can borrow from them to enhance our best practices and improve our evolving workflows. But what are the limits? This paper will examine how digital forensics can inform and improve our practices, but also ask where do the theory and practice of digital forensics and that of digital collection, preservation, and access diverge?
There are problems at the level of appraisal, processing, and access, that digital forensics probably cannot solve for us, nor was the field as it was conceived designed to solve these problems. When digital archivists, digital preservationists, and others speak about digital forensics are they talking about the same things as forensics scientists? And to what extent do some of the digital forensics tools move us in a direction that may not be entirely useful or compatible to the aims of archives, libraries, and other cultural heritage organisations. This paper will consider these questions in relation to the National Library of New Zealand’s current and evolving workflows for born digital unpublished materials, looking particularly at a couple recent acquisitions and the challenges faced by the digital archivists, curators, description librarians, and preservation analysts in working with these collections.
Keywords: born digital processing, born digital archives, digital forensics, digital preservation.
Unearthing the Auscene
This paper explores the amateur archiving practises associated with a classic-home-computer-based subculture known as the demoscene. The demoscene is a community of computer enthusiasts whose activities focus on the creative uses of computing platforms. The demoscene’s origins parallel the development of personal computers, with a “golden era” that coincides with the introduction of the 16-bit home computer platforms such as the Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST. The demoscene still exists today and has grown to include multimedia creations for almost every kind of computational device. The primary activity for the demoscene is exhibiting their demos at demoparties where creators compete against each other in defined categories.
Significantly the history of the demoscene has been recorded by the user community themselves – participants and fans – who have created repositories of “demos” and related media. In their capacity as “Amateur Archivists” the ‘sceners’ have documented their practises in extraordinary detail on general websites like pouet.net, demoscene.tv, bitfellas.org and many others. While a small amount of academic research exists on the history of the European demoscene the other major markets for home computers (like the U.S., the U.K., Australia – and in 2013 the rise of the Japanese, Russian and South African demoscenes) are conspicuously absent from the historical record.
The semi-underground status of the scene partly accounts for the absence to date of demoscene artefacts in more formal institutional collections, but it means that without attempts at preservation there’s a risk that few demos themselves will survive.
A challenge for computer historians dealing with primary material is the fragile nature of physical media such as floppy disks.
This paper will report on an “archive” created by Australian Demoscene participants at the Auscene.org website, and its contribution to remembering and preserving the history of creative-computing in Australia.
Born Robot: Karakuri, Robots and the Preservation of Social Realities
This paper explores two distinct but interrelated paths. The first examines issues of preservation and contemporary robotics, with particular focus on the Japanese robot industry and the recent tradition of ‘entertainment robots’, robots designed to serve as human companions. The concern with digital preservation, and the continued usability and accessibility of cultural objects generated in the digital era is one that has impacted on diverse fields, including museum studies, game studies, and cinema studies. To date, however, the significant issue regarding robot preservation has not been addressed. Companies like Sony, Toshiba and Honda release model after model of QRIO, Kenji and Asimo, to name but a few. But what happens to the earlier models, and how is their history and the experience of their presence preserved? As this paper will argue, this issue is not just about the preservation of hardware, it’s also about the preservation of a history that carries with it ontological questions of embodiment and changing social realities.
In addressing this question, this paper will open up another path, one that understands preservation and the preservation of social reality as a fluid concept that includes the process of remediation. Revisiting the work of Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin, I will briefly examine Japanese robot history by returning to their historical roots. Bolter and Grusin argue that new media achieve their cultural significance by rivaling and refashioning old media. I will argue that current robotics always has a story to tell about its robotics past. Robots not only contain parts of their own previous-model history, but beyond that they also present us with a history of a past that reaches back to the early C17th and the creation of the karakuri, or mechanical dolls controlled through clockwork, pneumatics or puppetry. In 1875, for example, Tanaka Hisashige, a Japanese engineer, inventor and karakuri master founded what was to become the Toshiba Corporation, a corporation later famous for its production of electronics, automobiles and, more recently, robots.
Famously, in ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ (1985) Donna Haraway argued that the ‘cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations’. While robots and Karakuri aren’t cyborgs, they are part of a long history of lived social relations and histories, both in Japan and, increasingly, in the West. Re-considering the significance of Haraway’s manifesto from a Japanese context, this paper will examine the different social realities that have shaped the relationship between human and robot/Karakuri in Japan. Haraway states that the cyborg is her blasphemy, because the ‘cyborg incarnation is outside salvation history… Modern machinery is an irreverent upstart god, mocking the Father’s ubiquity and spirituality… The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust.’ Yet, in Japan, this could not be further from the truth. Rather than being perceived as transgressive abominations, the birth of Karakuri and robots are intimately informed by Zen, Shinto and Buddhism and are one with nature and Japanese religion and philosophy. Western theory and religion has imposed its on history on the robot. By exploring the robots’ technological and philosophical relationship to its Karakuri media history, and by outlining current developments in Japan to acknowledge the cultural heritage of Karakuri by seeking the support of UNESCO, this paper offers an alternative view that considers a Japanese perspective on the preservation of cultural objects and cultural histories, and the experiences and realities that circulate around the tradition of the robot.
Early gaming magazines as a discursive archive: How print ephemera from the 1980s and 1990s shaped the imaginary and cultural contexts of the Neo Geo home platforms
When Japanese game company SNK expanded its ‘Neo Geo’ brand of arcade machine hardware into the home with the Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System (AES) in 1990 and the Neo Geo CD in 1994, they did so with an aggressive marketing campaign targeted at readers of gaming and computer magazines. Through various promotional materials, SNK attempted to establish an identity for their home platforms by constructing a specialised Neo Geo discourse, thereby securing autonomy for their brand within the competitive home console market. Writers for magazines such as Computer & Videogames (C&V) also wrote extensively on the Neo Geo home platforms, documenting their opinions on the systems in the form of game reviews, news articles and product features. These articles, I suggest, provide documentary evidence about how the Neo Geo was received and perceived by the wider gaming culture.
The argument of this paper is that period print sources – particularly game magazines from the early 1990s but also marketing materials from SNK – can be put to critical use as a ‘discursive archive’ that enables access to the Neo Geo’s historical context. I examine materials from old gaming magazines as a means by which to resuscitate the cultural, social and imaginary dimensions in which the Neo Geo home platforms circulated. Through such an analysis, it will be possible to discern not only the former lives of the Neo Geo AES and CD platforms, but also the economic and material forces that contributed to their commercial failure. This paper takes its cue from Graeme Kirkpatrick’s recent Game Studies article ‘Constitutive Tensions of Gaming’s Field’ (2013), where he examines early gaming magazines “to see how the circulation of discourses about games contributed to a determinate structuring of perceptions” (n.p.).
Media archaeology is introduced as a theoretical framework whose various methods and practices suggest an alternative approach for examining the archives of the media cultural past. While the material side of media archaeology often emphasises that machines should be treated as archives of information (for example, the ‘Platform Studies’ approach (see Montfort and Bogost 2009)), there is an equally important aspect of media archaeology that emphasises the value of looking at the discourses surrounding technologies. Eric Kluitenberg (2007) and Erkki Huhtamo (2013) provide frameworks for interpreting these discourses as the imaginary and residual dimensions of media. This paper therefore speaks to the preservation and remembrance of digital technologies as well as their cultural histories. It also asks the question: how can the discourses surrounding gaming platforms contribute to an understanding of gaming history? I claim that the importance of such archives lies in their capacity to illuminate the discursive and imaginary formations surrounding games.
An App as Artwork
George Poonkhin Khut’s sensory artwork, Distillery: Waveforming 2012, was the winner of the 2012 National New Media Art Award. This immersive installation artwork is a biofeedback, controlled interactive that utilises the prototype iPad application ‘BrightHearts’. Khut has an interest in the continued development of the ‘BrightHearts’ app to the point of making it available as a download from iTunes App Store to be used in conjunction with specialised pulse-sensing hardware. The configuration of Distillery: Waveforming presented in 2012 at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, incorporated Apple iPad 4th generation devices running the ‘BrightHearts’ app supported by Mac mini computers that processed data and mapped sound and visuals that were fed back to users as animations on the iPads.
At the conclusion of the exhibition the artwork was acquired into the Queensland Art Gallery collection. The Curator of Contemporary Australian Art requested that the acquisition ensure that the artwork was captured in perpetuity in its prototype state. The iPad devices underwent jailbreaks to safeguard their independent operation and management, and to allow for the permanent installation of non-expiring copies of the ‘BrightHearts’ app. Source code for the ‘BrightHearts’ app was also archived into the collection.
This paper describes the development of the artwork and the issues that were addressed in the acquisition and archiving of an iPad artwork.
History, Philosophy and Techniques of Forensic Preservation of Games on Magnetic Media at the Game Preservation Society in Tokyo
This presentation will cover the history, objective, scope, and recent projects of the Game Preservation Society (GPS). GPS is a non-profit organization based in Tokyo, Japan and founded in 2011. The main objective of GPS is to research methods for preserving endangered videogames, particularly those stored on magnetic media. However, GPS also compiles large databases of games, gathers those games, and has built a network of game collectors. GPS currently has fifteen members, all volunteer, with an annual budget of between $100,000 and $200,000 US. The entire operation is funded by its members – we do not receive funds from other companies.
The goal of GPS is to preserve any games released in Japan, including arcade games, computer games, console games, and electronic games of any form and from any era. However, we give priority to those which are difficult to preserve or were distributed on mediums which have a short lifespan, such as cassette tapes and floppy disks. Online games are currently beyond the scope of our project. Included will be precise figures illustrating how many games fall into each category, ranked by importance.
Note the GPS archive includes not only games, but also game related items (CDs, books), and hardware. Our collection currently holds more than 100,000 items, although we have access to more through our network of game collectors.
Before discussing game preservation, it is important to discuss game piracy in Japan. Game piracy is different in Japan than the rest of the world and has indirectly helped the GPS to keep track of many games. However, it cannot be overemphasized that game piracy is not preservation! With piracy, only a cracked binary of the game has been saved, and the archivist has no clue to its authenticity or whether the source was 100% intact. In addition, the binary has lost all of its cultural essence since the game packaging has been lost.
Today, the status of game preservation in Japan is slow to improve. Games are not considered a cultural asset in Japan, and thus there are no laws for preservation, no recognition, and no official national archive. This presentation will include a brief discussion on the operations of groups that are conducting game preservation – and sometimes only claiming to do so – including the Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Ritsumeikan University, and Mieji University.
The forensic preservation efforts of GPS differ greatly from the efforts of game piracy and recognized preservation groups in Japan, since we preserve digital artefacts that retain their integrity and authenticity. While information found on the Internet can be helpful to this process, that data cannot be considered to be preserved (i.e., bad dumps, unpreserved versions, etc.). Worse, there are consequences from cracked versions on public conceptions of game preservation.
I will present two case studies on GPS’s efforts to preserve games: the Data East Corporation Cassette (DECO Cassette) System and the Famicom Disk System (FDS). These will include brief introductions to each storage format’s place in history, followed by an overview of the technical challenges each project faced, the methods we used to overcome those challenges, and the results we received.
The DECO Cassette System, famous for games such as Burger Time, Burnin’ Rubber, Pro Soccer, and Pro Golf, is the most difficult tape system on earth. However, our preservation methods can be applied to any other system using cassette tapes as a storage medium. The presentation will include technical details of this process.
The FDS is linked to the DECO Cassette because the FDS uses QD technology, an extension of tape technology. The FDS is a weak and unreliable system for longevity; in addition, its main feature (game saves) provide a unique problem for game preservation, since they will automatically write to the disk once it is inserted, hence the need to locate unmodified copies of every game. This section explains the technical challenges GPS had to overcome and our methods of successfully retrieving analogue information in order to demonstrate that our resulting digital artefacts can be considered new masters for each game.
This process needs to be accomplished in order to demonstrate that a game has been preserved. From the new master, we could potentially make an exact new copy in case the original game is lost. However, the main purpose of a digitally remastered game is the possibility of making it run in a virtual environment and ensuring the experience is the same as it was when the game was released. This obviously cannot be accomplished without a master copy, as the distribution of cracked binaries demonstrates. This procedure can and has to be applied to any other elements of the game artefact, such as the hardware, the packaging, and any other cultural elements belonging to the game (such as advertisements in magazines).
Based on this presentation, I will be able to explain that our activity isn’t to save sources and materials from game companies or game creators, but to preserve an authentic snapshot of the final product. Thus, GPS is definitely on the side of gamers and cultural preservation.
Game preservation is a young science, but our approach is no more different than any other science of preservation. Forensic methods must be applied in order to claim that the preservation process is fully achieved.
BLER, BERL, Disc Rot and Dropouts: Preserving South Australia’s Digital Audio Legacy of the 1980s and 90s
The State Library of South Australia (SLSA) began collecting South Australian sound recordings in earnest in the mid-1980s, coinciding with the advent of digital audio carriers. Consequently, the collection of both published and unpublished sound recordings include thousands of Compact Discs, Digital Audio Tapes (DAT), recordable CDs (CD-R) and MiniDisks. Two of these formats are now obsolete and all present preservation challenges, some of which are common to gaming carriers. This paper will outline the development of audio preservation facilities at SLSA since the 1980s, provide an overview of the guidance available from the international sound archiving community, describe the strategies and actions applied to date in preserving South Australia’s digital audio artefacts, and the impact of copyright law on these activities. The paper will focus in particular on a current project to reformat about 1,270 legal deposit CDs that have been identified as CD-R.
Keywords: sound recordings; technical obsolescence; digital audio archiving; CD-Recordable; copyright.
Fly Away Home: Pilot Transfer of Born-digital Records at Archives New Zealand
The end-to-end transfer of born digital records is a challenge many national archives are facing; from appraisal through to the digital preservation and access of records. Archives New Zealand established a pilot transfer work package in 2011 to understand the processes and structures of digital transfers as well as the resourcing implications for agencies and the organisation itself. The package hoped to concentrate on a small number of transfer sets from a handful of pilot agencies. This would result in a profile of skills, tools, file formats and technologies required for different types of accession as well as an understanding of time frames and risks involved with agencies and documentation for the entire breadth of a digital transfer. While the original vision has remained consistent, the practicalities of the organisation’s statutory mandate meant that controlled transfers gave way, in-part, to substantive transfers with greater priority and importance, such as those of the recent Royal Commissions conducted by the New Zealand Government. This paper provides a case study exploring the ambitions of an ideal transfer process; the stark reality of transfer outside of a controlled work package; the relationship between Archives New Zealand and the various agencies involved in the transfers, as well as reflecting on its own infrastructural positioning. The paper will also look at lower level technical challenges of dealing with real data, real volumes, and the overarching issue of the digital preservation of that material. The paper will summarise Archives New Zealand’s progress in this area and its future targets.
Keywords: Archives, case study, transfer, appraisal, digital preservation, government, inter-agency cooperation
Run5 Magazine: The Creation of Community
Between 1986 and 1996 Strategic Studies Group (SSG) published twenty-five issues of their in-house magazine Run5. The magazine featured articles on their games, new scenarios to play and detailed historical information on the battles featured. A set of the magazines donated to the “Play it Again” research into the history of Australian games offers an extraordinary document of the story of SSG recounting a detailed chronicle of their games, their ports and versions, insight into their design decision making process, an account of staff activities and company highs and lows.
What insight can be gained from this archive in relation to contemporary discourse on computer games and participatory culture? This paper addresses this question through a close analysis of how the magazine played a vital role in allowing the SSG to communicate directly to their audience of dedicated war-gamers, and how it gave their audience a voice, allowing them to interact. This includes an examination of: reader’s letters; a dedicated question and answer section; scenario design competitions, which enabled in depth conversations on game design between the company and their audience. The archive provides an extensive and detailed account of the interaction between a major games company and its audience from the pre-internet era. I consider how this activity relates to recent discussion on computer games and participatory culture (Banks, 2003, 2009; Jenkins, 2004, 2006), reflecting on Swalwell’s observation that accounts of user productivity in the era of the microcomputer have largely been overlooked creating a failure to historicise accounts of user productivity (Swalwell, 2012). I conclude with some observations on how SSG’s choice to share the now historic magazines on the “Play it Again” site has reignited a discussion with its community, that is not simply one of nostalgia but addresses the value of historic games material as design resources.
Duration of Cultural Heritage Process: Case Digital Games in Finland
Many scholars have already stated that digital games are cultural heritage. Several recent studies have underlined importance of the saving of digital games ”before it is too late” and examined different possibilities of digital game preservation from the perspectives on creation of museum collections and archives, documenting and emulation and migration of game software code and so forth. Scholars have also recognized the value of hobbyists in preserving, introducing and displaying the essential cultural heritage. The discussion of digital game preservation is significant, but it mostly lacks of pondering of one key question: how the game cultural elements are recognized and selected as being worth of preserving?
Primary theoretical concepts of the paper are cultural heritage processes and cultures of history. Cultures of history are examples of modern culture, which takes form from the ways of encountering the past, from traditions, events and the meanings given to the past. Cultural historian Hannu Salmi, for example, distinguishes five means by which the past is among us in the present-day: memory, experience, customs, artifacts (monuments) and commodities.
The production of cultural heritage is a process of constructing symbolic monuments. The monument, as an item of cultural heritage, derives its cultural value and meaning from historical interpretations. When heritage is produced and selected, argumentation is based on histories. The cultural heritage is born in a process. The cultural heritage process begins with the researching and interpreting the past. The first phase of the process is the historiographical one. History is used to highlight some moments and attach some remains of the past to these highlighted moments. Monuments, cultural heritage items, are usually attached to the beginning of the historical story or to the turning points of the historiographically described process. Monuments are therefore often related to the events of change or the moment of beginning of a progressive series of events.
The cultural heritage of digital games has already begun to emerge in Finland. There are already some popular histories available, and there is a vivid ongoing discussion on the beginnings and turning points of the digital games in Finland. The symbolic monuments are not yet selected, but they are under the historical construction. The usability of these selected items of cultural heritage for retro- and heritage industrial purposes, for example, depend on their historical value.
Abovementioned theoretical concepts will be contextualized with case examples. The most essential example of the paper will deal with the question of the first Finnish digital game. Many researchers and journalists have claimed Raharuhtinas (Money Prince 1984) for Commodore 64 for being the first Finnish commercial digital game. However, its position is controversial, and in this paper, we are more interested in public discourse of being the first and its relation to anniversary celebrations. In which situation the question of the first game emerged? How is the debate of what was the first game related to cultural heritage process? The case illuminates the ways how items are selected for being a building material for digital game cultural heritage.
Keywords: cultural heritage, cultures of history, historiography, digital games, retrogames
Homebrew Gaming and the Everyday Reception of Micro-computers
‘Homebrew’ references the act of non-professionals creating software, often games. The practice took off in the ‘long 1980s’ when 8 bit micro-computers came within the reach of everyday users. If homebrew practices are acknowledged at all in the literature on computing history they tend to be treated dismissively, as in software historian Campbell-Kelly’s characterisation of homebrew creations as amateurish. Such treatment means that the distinct perspectives of homebrew games and their creators have largely been overlooked.
This paper details what the study of homebrew practices contributes to an understanding of the reception of micro-computers, drawing on archival research and oral histories conducted with 1980s homebrew creators from Australia and New Zealand. Homebrew is an instance of the everyday, vernacular reception of computers: users were located in domestic space, rather than in commercial studios and the stories they tell of their experiences are usually local in scope, with interactions remaining predominantly with other users. All were unashamedly ‘making it up as they went’, an entirely appropriate response to the then new technology. The study reveals a history not of ‘great men’ in computing, but of schoolboys and girls and interested adults, with typically local aspirations, having a go, learning, and sometimes breaking through.
The era of the 1980s – while sometimes judged not sufficiently distant to be historically recuperated – is significant in the history of how we became digital. It is a key period in the transition from analogue to digital ways of living – a part of our digital cultural heritage – and a cultural moment we are fast losing touch with. Without wanting to romanticise the period, the homebrew case study provides a chance to remember and recapture something of the time when computing was new and to grasp what it meant for everyday users.
Millicent Anne Weber
Retaining Traces of Composition in Digital Manuscript Collections: A Case for Institutional Proactivity
Studies of digital manuscripts generally focus on the technical capabilities of collecting institutions, digital storage and preservation, recovery of corrupted or out-dated material, and provision of access. The potential content of future, digital or part-digital, collections, and their capacity to support sustained scholarly research, has been comparatively neglected by scholars and archival institutions alike. In response to this shortcoming, this paper presents a study into the potential content of future collections of poetry manuscripts and their capacity to support research into the process of composition. To predict this capacity, this paper compares a study of compositional process, using handwritten and typewritten manuscripts, with a small-scale survey of early-career poets’ compositional habits. The manuscript study used the draft manuscripts of three poems by the poet Alan Gould and three by the poet Chris Mansell to describe each poet’s compositional habits, while the survey component of the project obtained information about the drafting practices of 12 students of creative writing and poetry at the University of Canberra.
This study identified five attributes of the manuscript collections necessary to support research into compositional process: the quantity of information; the completeness of information; the sequence of drafts; the preservation of material as it was created; and the availability of contextualising material such as letters. The survey showed that the majority of these attributes were only partially displayed by young writers’ draft manuscripts, but also indicated these writers’ interests in increasing and preserving the research value of their manuscripts. While the scale of this project is niche, the results are transferrable to the extent that they indicate the diversity of manuscript collections currently being created, and emphasise the importance of archival institutions adopting a more active advocacy role in encouraging writers to create and maintain comprehensive and well-organised collections of digital manuscripts.
Keywords: Born digital manuscripts, Australian poetry, compositional criticism, archival practice
Ian Welch and Stuart Marshall
Through a Browser Darkly – Prospects for Simplifying the Exhibition of Games
Deploying and maintaining emulators is not for the faint hearted and the complexity may deter their use in exhibition settings. We propose using a centralised approach where emulators are packaged as servers that can be remotely interacted with via a commodity browser. This approach has the advantage of simplifying deployment on both the client and server side. In this talk we review our own and related work in the area and propose experimentally determined benchmarks for acceptable performance and outline the architecture of a prototype tools that we are developing that uses the Microbee as a case study.