Guins on The Museology of Videogames

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Friday, March 25, 2011 - 16:00
Concordia University

The Advanced Research Team on the History and Epistemology of Moving Image Studies is pleased to present a lecture with

Raiford Guins
Digital Cultural Studies
State University of New York

Space Invaders Behind Glass and Baer in a Box: The Museology of Videogames

The Library of Congress’s Preserving Virtual Worlds Project reached the conclusion in its final report that the preservation of a “videogame itself is insufficient; we need to also preserve the information that contextualizes the game and helps researchers achieve a more complete understanding of the game’s significance and use”. My talk will apply this finding to various U.S. cultural institutions to explain how specific museums, The Strong Museum of Play, Smithsonian National History Museum, and the Computer History Museum, practice the preservation and conservation of videogames. By concentrating on preservation strategies and curatorial models, it is argued, we gain a wider understanding of the videogame not solely restricted to the game program, game-player interface, and display technologies. We come to see games as complex artifacts/activities whereby every “part” – game engine, source code, platform, game schematics, console design, storage media, controllers, circuits, chips, boards, wires, buttons – as well as ephemera such as software box-art, arcade cabinet art, and marketing materials, to cite a few examples, possess significance and value for documentation of the social experience and cultural history of videogames. Intentionally removing games from circulation for purposes of posterity, managing “how” and “where” they can be experienced affords new meanings and values for games at heritage sites, in museums, on exhibition, and safeguarded outside of the public eye in acid-free archival boxes.

Raiford Guins is an Associate Professor of Digital Cultural Studies at SUNY - Stony Brook. He is a founding principal editor with the Journal of Visual Culture and curator for the William A. Higinbotham Game Studies Collection. He is the author of Edited Clean Version: Technology and the Culture of Control (Minnesota 2009) and co-editor of The Object Reader (Routledge 2009). His work on videogames appears in numerous academic journals such as Design and Culture, Design Issues, Cabinet, and the Journal of Visual Culture. He is currently writing a new book entitled: Game Saved: An Afterlife History of Videogames and Their Preservation.

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