We do Video Game Preservation and You Can Too!
Video game preservation can look incredibly daunting from the outside looking in. If you’ve been to our streams, checked out our work, or engaged with anyone in the preservation community, you know how dedicated we, and the community, are to ensuring that games are cataloged and stored for future generations of researchers, developers, and enthusiastic fans. And while we subscribe to the adage of “nothing is as simple as it seems,” preservation doesn’t have to be as complicated as you might believe.
Our Executive Director, Jonas Rosland, has some insight on how to break into video game preservation without getting too lost.
Preservation 101 Tip: It’s Going to Take a Lot of Time
Jonas Rosland: Preservation is going to eat up a lot of your free time. When it comes to being a part of a community and driving towards a common goal with a global community out there, it's a wonderful feeling. But it does take time to learn how to use the tools, and how to do preservation properly. You’ll need to investigate what tools to use, who to talk to, and the nuts and bolts of how to do it.
JR: This is why we've been trying to help out with our dumping guide and scanning guide. And we're also now building out a preservation guide (WIP)! Instead of you trying to figure out how to do all the things by yourself, if we can help you out with some easy guides, then you're halfway there.
Preservation 101 Tip: Know Your Strengths and Interests
Like with anything, start with what moves you and what you’re best at. Our Director of Communications, Amanda Farough, doesn’t handle the technical side of preservation, but as a former game journalist, she preserves marketing and promotional materials for the Hit Save vault. Lean into what you’re best at and what you’re most interested in.
JR: Not everything is technical. We talked about the community — community management, helping out within the community, teaching others. That’s all very important. So if you're a good teacher, or a good community manager, that's super awesome, too. If you're a quick learner, and can then show others how to do things, that's great.
JR: But if you want to get into the technical portions, then go into the guides that we have for dumping and scanning, they’re a good start to see if this is something that you would like to do. It usually involves specialized hardware and software, time to set everything up, and to verify that everything works.
JR: There's a lot of video game preservation that has already been done. There are already hundreds and hundreds of different dumps of Super Mario Bros, of course. So there's no need to do that again. So instead, what can you do? What would you like to do? We don't want you to immediately waste a bunch of money buying rare games to dump. But instead, look at other ways that you can contribute without spending all your hard earned cash. We recommend looking at what you want to do. What can you do? And what means do you have to do it? We'll help you figure that out as a community.
Preservation 101 Tip: Start Small and Scale Your Tools Slowly
This is the part of video game preservation that tends to scare newcomers away: the tools. What do you need? How much is it going to cost? How long will it take to learn how to use them? What if I get stuck? Fear not! It’s not nearly as scary as you’re imagining.
JR: We're trying to help out with tools at Hit Save. We have invested in preservation tools that we can send out to our community members. So if you’re a part of our community, you can get up and running without having to spend a bunch of money. We’ve got disc dumping kits, a few cart dumping kits, and we also have scanning targets to calibrate your scanner if you want to do scans.
JR: We're trying to help out there and minimize the cost of entry for a new person, or even an established person who wants to continue to help out. But there are a bunch of tools out there. A lot of the hardware is open source or fairly cheap, depending on what you want to do. But then it can easily go up into hundreds of dollars of equipment just to dump floppy disks, for instance.
JR: A cheap and easy way to get involved is to dump carts, there are a bunch of different tools for cart dumping. Then for disc dumping it sometimes requires specialized drives that aren't being made anymore, so they're getting more and more expensive by the day. Luckily we have a bunch of those so we can send those out.
JR: Floppy disk dumping is one of the more expensive parts of physical media preservation right now, I would say. So that's something that we don't see a lot of people doing. It can easily cost between $200 and $300 to get started, so not everyone wants to invest in that.
Preservation 101 Tip: Get Involved in Preservation Communities
Community is everything in preservation. Community is there to answer questions, help you understand the problems you’re having with your tools, or even just connect with.
JR: Getting to know people within the community is very important, especially so you can ask questions when you get stuck. That's how I got started, and how I continue to help out. I had no idea what I was doing, but I wanted to be a part of the preservation community. So I joined the Video Game Preservation collective, VGPC. From there, it just snowballed into where we're at today.
JR: I would highly recommend for any newcomer, to go check out the guides, join the VGPC discord, just to introduce yourself. When you introduce yourself, you will have a bunch of people actually help you go in the right direction. When you introduce yourself to say, “hey, I'm interested in dumping Brazilian video games,” or “I'm interested in doing Czech game preservation”, the people there will already know who you should talk to.
There are a few communities that we recommend you check out, which we’ve listed out in our very first blog post as well.
JR: There’s VGPC: Video Game Preservation Collective, if you want to get into the technical weeds of actual video game preservation. They work towards preserving the physical and the digital copies of games, so that's the first one I would recommend if you want to get into the technical portion of preservation.
JR: If you want to dive into the history of video games, and a more esoteric knowledge of video games, then Gaming Alexandria is phenomenal. They have a fantastic group of people who are very, very passionate video game historians.
JR: Then there’s the Video Game History Foundation, of course, I highly recommend supporting them on their quest of preserving the history of video games, they're doing a fantastic job there. They also have a Discord if you support them on Patreon.
JR: If you're interested in Japanese games and Japanese game history, then I would highly recommend the Game Preservation Society in Japan. They recently opened up a public Discord as well.