As I touched on yesterday, preserving software - the disc, cartridge or what have you that the game is stored on - is only one piece of the problem. The opening keynote for day 2 was delivered by Richard Bartle, and discussed the importance of both preserving games with an audience in mind, and also preserving the contextual and ethnographical data surrounding the games.
He used the example of MMORPGs to illustrate how the software alone is relatively useless - it is the virtual world, and the virtual world's inhabitants that make the game what it is. However, I would argue beyond this; it is not only multiplayer or online games such as this that have an important community aspect. A huge number of games have dedicated fan websites or groups, and these communities often bring completely new meaning to their chosen games. Whether this is running tournaments that use rules not actually built in to the game, but mutually agreed upon prior to play, or whether it is producing swathes of fan-art and fan-fiction, it all contributes to that games cultural 'footprint'. One need only consider the Final Fantasy series to see this; websites dedicated to documenting tirelessly every conceivable component of every game in the series, discussing different interpretations of storyline and many other things.
Bartle discussed the possible different ways that in future, different people may 'read' a game. Historians, for example, will be interested in very different aspects of preserved data than say, ethnographers, psychologists or even other games designers. Making the data we preserve useful and accessible to these different demographics is almost as important as the act of preserving itself.
But then of course, how do we even contemplate preserving all of this data, all of this culture? We can't possibly cater to every possible future use of it. We need instead a compromise, and a decision of what is more, or less, important to preserve for future generations.
A combined and coordinated effort is required, from all parts of game culture; from developers, to publishers, to webmasters and writers, journalists and researchers... Not to archive everything of course, that would be an impossible task. However, identifying key influential games - those that had a significant and lasting societal impact - and preserving as much about them as possible, that will be what the historians and researchers of tomorrow will require. By providing a detailed archive of the key turning points and eureka moments from throughout the evolution of games, the groundwork for understanding the broader culture of today will be in place.
In my opinion, that is the only workable and realistic solution. Firstly however as I began by saying yesterday, we need to get our industry understood and appreciated by the masses. We need to shout from the rooftops, let as many people know as we can; games are important, games are cultural objects, and games are worth preserving. Only then can we begin to make real progress in the actual act of doing so.
All comments welcomed below!