Archival Collections Related to Video and Other Electronic Games

The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play houses important archival materials that chronicle the development of electronic and video games. These materials, which shed light on the impact electronic and video games have had on American culture, have been gathered, preserved, studied, and interpreted through the work of the museum’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games. Included in the collection are personal papers, design documents, business records, and other unpublished materials that document the history of video games and other electronic games and the ways in which they affect how people play, learn, and connect with each other, including across boundaries of culture and geography.

Expand All

Atari Arcade Design Collection, 1973–1991

Atari created the modern arcade industry with its development of Computer Space, Pong, and other coin-operated games in the 1970s and 1980s. This collection of more than 250 design plans and concept sketches documents the thinking behind such Atari arcade cabinets as the first racing game Gran Trak 10, the pioneering 3-D dogfight simulator Red Baron, the legendary dungeon crawl title Gauntlet, and many others. The list includes Pin Pong, the barrel and cocktail variations of Pong, the 4-player version of Football, Touch Me (the game that inspired Ralph Baer’s creation of Simon), Capcom’s Street Fighter, S.T.U.N. Runner, Dodgem, Peter Pack Rat, Gremlins (never released), and Qwak!. The concept drawings feature the work of Atari artists Regan Cheng, Barney Huang, Pete Takaichi, and Ken Hata, among others.

See also “Gauntlet by Design: Creating the Four-Player-at-Once Arcade Game Experience” and “A Fabulous Collection of Atari Concept Art” blogs, and the Atari Coin-Op Divisions Collection, 1972–1999 in The Strong's Video Game Company Collections. View the Atari Arcade Design Collection finding aid.

Ralph H. Baer Papers, 1968–2010

Ralph H. Baer invented the Brown Box prototype of Magnavox Odyssey—the first home video console (1972)—and contributed importantly to the development of commercial and educational electronic toys and games for four decades afterward. This extensive collection documents, in particular, his work with video game pioneer Jay Smith III, the toy design firm Marvin Glass and Associates, and toy and game designer Phillip E. Orbanes. Represented games and toys include Computer Perfection, Maniac, M.A.S.K. Laser Command, Smarty Bear, Sounds By Me, Simon, and numerous others licensed to firms such as Coleco, Ideal, Kenner, and Milton Bradley. Included are sketches, notes, specifications, schematics, patent information, correspondence, two compact discs, and one DVD.

See also “Happy Birthday Home Video Games!” View the Ralph H. Baer Papers finding aid.

Dan Bunten (Dani Bunten Berry) Papers, 1949–1998

One of the most important game programmers during the era of personal computer development, Dan Bunten pioneered multiplayer games. His Wheeler Dealers (1978) became one of the first boxed computer games; his landmark multiplayer game M.U.L.E. (1983) helped inspire future generations of multiplayer game developers; and his Modem Wars (1988) became the first game to take advantage of modems for game play. Other Bunten games included Robot Rascals, Heart of Africa, Cartels & Cutthroats, Cyber Masters, and Computer Quarterback. The Bunten papers contain business records of the Ozark Softscape company, game concept documents and descriptions, press clippings, personal documents, and photographs.

Don Daglow Papers, 1977–2010

Don Daglow has been a video game designer, programmer, and producer since the early 1970s. He is best known for pioneering simulation games, the first computer baseball game, and the first graphical massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). This collection includes computer code, sketches, personal papers, and other materials related to his Neverwinter Nights, Diplomax, Off the Wall, and Utopia games. Miscellaneous additional papers are also present.

View the Don Daglow Papers finding aid. See also “Creating MMORPGs: The Neverwinter Nights Story.”

Gerald A. “Jerry” Lawson Collection, 1967–1994

Pioneering African-American engineer Jerry Lawson helped revolutionize the video game industry through his design of the Fairchild Channel F, the first video game system to use interchangeable cartridges. An early member of the Homebrew Computer Club, Lawson went on to found Video Soft, Inc. in 1980. This collection includes three generations of Fairchild Channel F prototype Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), a Fairchild Channel F (1976), and a Channel F System II (1979) owned by Lawson. Also included are more than two dozen  games, including Channel F and Video Soft prototype cartridges; a game originally produced for the first video game-themed television show, TV Powww!; a copy of the rare Video Soft Color Bar Generator utility cartridge; design documents on the Channel F (including a blueprint of the Channel F console case); and other design documents and business records from Video Soft.

See also “Collection Documents the Career of Video Game Pioneer Jerry Lawson.” View the Gerald A. “Jerry” Lawson finding aid.

Jordan Mechner Collection, 1913–2014

American video game designer, author, and filmmaker Jordan Mechner is best known for creating the popular Prince of Persia game franchise. He programmed two of his first published games—Karateka (1984) and Prince of Persia (1989)—almost entirely by himself, developing pioneering animation techniques to produce realistic movement from the games’ characters. The material in this collection documents his groundbreaking work on both of those games and also on The Last Express (1997). Included are game design documents, notes, correspondence, development agreements, publicity, magazine articles, photographs, film, digital files, audio-visual media, source code disks, and other items. The collection also contains business records for Mechner’s Smoking Car Productions firm, more than 150 copies of these games and Prince of Persia sequels in a variety of formats, and memorabilia related to them. The bulk of the materials are from 1984 to 1999.

See also, "Jordan Mechner Collection Documents Revolution in Game Graphics" and the Jordan Mechner Collection finding aid.

Ken and Roberta Williams Collection, 1979–1996

Ken and Roberta Williams founded the Sierra On-Line computer game company in 1979 and developed it into one of the leading and most influential video game companies of the next two decades. Games they designed and produced ranked among the most popular of the era and included the first graphical computer adventure game, Mystery House; the first third-person graphical adventure game, King’s Quest; and dozens of other noted titles, such as The Black Cauldron, Mixed-Up Mother Goose, Leisure Suit Larry, Gabriel Knight, and Phantasmagoria. Through these and other games, Ken and Roberta Williams pioneered the use of animation, video, and humor in computer games. The collection includes more than 140 examples of Sierra On-Line games plus design documents, artwork, press releases, annual reports, copies of the company magazine (Interaction), newspaper clippings, photographs, and miscellaneous memorabilia and other material.

View the Ken and Roberta Williams Collection finding aid.

Will Wright Papers, 1989–2010

Will Wright, co-founder of the game development company Maxis, now part of Electronic Arts (EA), is best known for designing the video games series SimCity and The Sims. These papers consist chiefly of nine notebooks containing Wright’s original drawings, sketches, and notes for SimCity 2000 (1993), SimCopter (1996), The Sims (2000), and Spore (2008). The materials illustrate how Wright brainstormed ideas, conceptualized play mechanics, and outlined presentations about the games.

View the Will Wright Papers finding aid. See also “Will Wright's Video Game Notebooks."

Also view materials in The Strong's Video Game Company Collections. These collections include either software or hardware, or both, or one or both in addition to archival items.