ACMI Game Masters: The Forums – The Collectors

Day 2 had one more forum, ‘The Collectors’, which was very aptly attended by our very own Serby from Weird & Retro. The last of the Gamemasters Forums featured a panel of international guests from a broad spectrum within the games industry to discuss the nature of not only collecting, but also the preservation of video games and gaming culture.

With the introductions and pleasantries aside, the forum kicked off with Dr Melanie Swalwell interviewing Warren Spector on the general aspect of collecting. In this candid interview, Mr Spector covered a wide range of topics including; his vast collection, how he came to won what he does, difficulties in preserving and obtaining material, and so forth.

Now I thought I was bad with not being able to park my car in our garage due to it being filled with my video game collections, but Warren had to purchase a house next door in order to accommodate his vast collection, turning it into an art museum. In any case, if there was one thing I took away from all this it’s the Collyer brothers! The story of two old NY brothers/collectors/hoarders who ended up dying in their home from the very booby-traps they set to prevent looters from stealing their goods. (go on, wiki it! You know you want to ;))

Next the curator and academic Helen Stuckey took the floor with a look into the preservation of video games and the difficulties encountered in doing so. These difficulties being not only of the legal variety, but also on a more personal level. For example, as fan knowledge is based on the users actual experience, how can you adequately preserve this aspect along with the game? She brought up many interesting points that people may not necessarily give thought to. It was also interesting to hear of all the obstacles that are encountered in trying to collect and display items of a copyrighted nature, which leads us to our next guest speaker.

Susan Corbett, from Victoria University of New Zealand, gave a presentation on copyright law and video games. For me this was the most interesting presentation of the day as I, like many collectors, would not have gone into the fine details of the law when it comes to collecting. Assuming you purchase originals and don’t pirate your software all is good, right? Wrong. Susan explored a wide range of legal ramifications when it comes to copyrights and video games.

Things to consider include: cultural heritage implications – not only to get access to but also the preservation of, orphans (ie: were the original copyright holder is unknown or lost), public archiving, and many more. Expanding on this there’s also the case of government vs rights holders, fake orphans, and numerous other roadblocks along the way. The urgency of digital heritage preservation was brought home with the examination of physical fragility, obsolete platforms and operating systems. These points and countermeasures were in turn elaborated on by Dr. Winfried Bergmeyer, our final presenter.

Dr Bergmeyer of the Berlin Computerspielemuseum further discussed the importance of archiving and preserving video gaming history and showed us a glimpse of how that is currently being done via a video tour of the amazing Computerspielemuseum in Germany. While being a purist and never giving in to emulation myself, for the first time I found the case of emulation to be a worthy one. Due to the fragile nature of old media, the museum implicated a great emulation project in order to facilitate universal access the cultural heritage that are video games.

The forum finished with a Q&A session in which all four speakers participated; there was also an opportunity to get autographs.

Overall it was a very enlightening forum with many issues raised that I, and possibly other collectors in attendance, wouldn’t have given much thought to. I noticed that the event was being filmed and I hope to be able to view the recording. If you have a chance to see it yourself I highly recommend it (if attained by legal means of course).

By Aleks ‘Serblander’ Svetislav