Recently, a couple of things have prompted me to think more about the history of video games in Europe. First, I’ve been reading Tristan Donovan’s excellent new book: Replay: The History of Video Games. One of the key contributions of the book is its attention to the often neglected history of European gaming, such as the importance of the Sinclair Spectrum for game development in Great Britain. Second, we at ICHEG have been in touch with a number of groups working on game preservation projects in Europe to explore possible collaborations or partnerships.
The oldest and best-established European venture is probably the Computerspiele Museum in Germany. Founded in 1997, the museum opened with a four-year public exhibit followed by a series of short-term exhibits in temporary locations. This December the museum will open a new, permanent exhibition space alongside popular flea markets, the East Side Gallery, and Fairytale Fountain in Friedrichshain, a trendy district of Berlin. The exhibition will showcase the museum’s large and important collection—the biggest in Europe—and we at ICHEG are lending American artifacts for the duration of the show. Until you get a chance to visit the museum, check out its time line of video game history—you can add entries to it too!
We have also been in communication with two ventures for video games preservation in Italy. The Archivio Videoludico in Bologna is building a collection of video games accessible to both researchers and the general public. And in Rome, ViGaMus—the Video Game Museum—plans to open a public exhibition in 2011.
English and French teams have also launched efforts to preserve and interpret the history of video games. The National Video Game Archive at Nottingham Trent University “is working to preserve, analyse and display the products of the global videogames industry.” In Paris, the Musée du Jeu Vidéo opened earlier this year, but unfortunately problems with its home—la Grande Arche de la Défense—forced it to close shortly thereafter. You can sign a petition to reopen the museum. Also in Paris, a 2011 toy exhibit at the Grand Palais will cover electronic games. A representative from that exhibit team recently toured ICHEG and, we have offered to loan them artifacts the same as we are doing for the Berlin museum.
Finally, KEEP (Keeping Emulation Environments Portable) is a European-wide effort to establish standards for the preservation of video games. This multi-year, multi-nation effort aims to preserve access to computer environments even as the systems they were created on age and become obsolete.
Preserving the history of video games requires international efforts such as these. At ICHEG we are building a collection that represents and interprets gaming around the world, and as we do so we look forward to partnering with other initiatives both here and abroad. Are you aware of other important preservation efforts going on in Europe? If so, let us know!
By Jon-Paul Dyson, Director, International Center for the History of Electronic Games and Vice President for Exhibits