In your wildest dreams, did you ever imagine that the likes of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas or Leisure Suit Larry might be considered part of the cultural heritage of America? The folks who run the Library of Congress - not generally known for their gaming chops - are giving the issue serious consideration.
The Library's National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) was founded in 2000 after Congress authorized the creation of a program to catalog and preserve digital materials. Laura Campbell, associate librarian for Strategic Initiatives, explained the purpose of the project:
"We are faced with the potential disappearance of our cultural heritage if we don't act soon and act together to preserve digital materials... We have learned from our experience that long-term preservation of digital content is dependent on influencing decisions of content providers from the moment of creation."
In April, the Library of Congress held a strategy session to discuss content preservation issues with leading industry figures, and found that there was great interest in the preservation of digital materials for many purposes including archiving. Content producers from many different types of media, including video games, expressed keen interest in contributing to a system developed to preserve, catalog, and provide expertise on preservation techniques.
Later this year the Library plans to issue a request for expressions of interest, targeting the private industry for participation in cooperative projects to give preservations projects in the private sector a boost.
The initiative is called "Preserving Creative America," and plans to compile (with industry help) a list of the commercial digital content most at risk of loss or degredation. The initiative will also develop ideas for preservation, business models to help maintain archives, and promote discussions between the archives and commercial content producers so that the archives are kept up to date.
CM: Hopefully the Library of Congress will consider that many PC games were rushed to market before they were ready. Critical software patches should be included in the archive. That's right Sierra, I'm talking about you.
By the way,for years gamers have been unofficially trying to preserve old console classics through the use of ROMs, a practice not looked kindly upon by the video game industry.
-Reporting from the dusty back corners of his local library, looking for a copy of "Zork", GP Correspondent Colin "Jabrwock" McInnes
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