Preserving the Game Collection

Games on floppy disk

The Computer & Video Game Archive (CVGA) has a dual mission of providing users access to our game collection, and the preservation of games for future research and scholarship.  

Since the CVGA has been temporarily closed to the public due to the pandemic, we have used this time to shift our focus from user access to the preservation portion of our mission, and have been discussing how to digitally image and archive our game collection. 

Before the pandemic began, we had been working with the Library Digital Preservation Lab to create a process that would allow us to archive each game's digital files, supporting materials (game manuals, reference guides, maps, etc.), and metadata in an archival "bag" using the Bagger application. That bag could then be stored in the university's dark storage archive and would be connected to the game's record in the library catalog. These stored game files would not be accessible or playable by the general public, but would be preserved as backup copies in case the original files are somehow corrupted.

When the pandemic began, CVGA staff began archiving individual games. To date, we have archived over 1,000 games in the CVGA collection.

We began by archiving our born-digital PC games first, since the game files were already in a format that was easy to archive.
We then focused on our computer games that are stored on aging media formats. Amongst our cataloged games, we currently have 233 games on floppy disk, 43 games on computer cartridge, and 8 games on cassette tape. So far, we have successfully imaged 177 games on floppy disk using a PC and a device called the FC5025 USB 5.25" floppy controller, which allows us to image disks for PC, Mac, Commodore, Apple and several other types of computers. 
We are still working on processes to extract the digital data from computer games on other aging media formats.

Since our console cartridge games have held up quite well over time, our next focus will be on games on CD, which are more vulnerable to bit rot and natural wear and tear. Our current plan is to start with PC, PlayStation, PlayStation 2 and Sega Saturn games on CD, and then look into the best way to image other console games, which will involve more complex processes.

As staff at the CVGA, we appreciate your support and understanding while we are temporarily closed. We hope you can enjoy playing games elsewhere for the time being, and we look forward to a time when you can play them together in the archive again.

For ideas on how to play games remotely in the meantime, please check out our research guide.

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