British Library starts videogame website archive project


Curators at The British Library have begun the process of archiving videogame websites to preserve gaming culture for future generations.

While game experts have previously tended to concentrate on archiving physical items such as computers, disks and cassettes, the Library feels gaming websites perfectly illustrate the impact of the industry on society.

The collection is being managed by the digital curation and preservation staff at the Library and it will include walkthroughs, FAQs, maps drawn by gamers, reviews, pictures and stories which develop game narratives.

The Library is working with the National Videogame Archive which has been gathering up hardware, original software, design documents and marketing material.

Set up in 2008, the Archive is a joint venture between Nottingham Trent University, Bath Spa University and the National Media Museum in Bradford which houses part of the collection in its Games Lounge.

Library staff are also keen to collect resources that discuss the cultural and societal impact of computer games, for example research on the impact of games on children’s development.

They want games designers, players and enthusiasts to suggest websites, online games, forums, enthusiast sites, advertising, FAQs and walkthroughs as well as emulation software and research and education resources which they believe should be preserved.

Paul Wheatley, digital preservation manager at The British Library, told The Independent: "As the reach and impact of the videogames world continues to grow, it's vital that we at least preserve the essence of the cultural and historical impact of the sector.

"Partnering with the National Videogame Archive and utilising the British Library's web archiving infrastructure will allow us to address a substantial gap in the current provision for games preservation."

Mr Wheatley says the archive projects will only work if enthusiasts, memory institutions, games developers and games publishers across the world become involved.

He also expressed concern about the lack of effective software preservation in the UK.

"Libraries, archives and museums are primarily targeting their preservation efforts on data and hardware, but without sustaining the software, we may be left with substantial gaps in our scientific and cultural history," he said.

Sites can be nominated by going to and filling the form, justifying why it should be included.

James Newman, director of the Media Futures Research Centre at Bath Spa University, and co-Director of the National Videogame Archive, said: "We're really excited to be working with the British Library on the games collection of the UK Web Archive because we want to ensure that, alongside games themselves, the cultures of gaming are documented and preserved.

"Being a gamer isn't just about playing games. It involves writing about them, reviewing them, debating which version is best, sharing strategies and tactics, writing solution guides, drawing pictures of characters, making movies, writing stories that develop game narratives…We need to make sure that all these practices, all these materials, many of which are shared online, are preserved so that we can understand what games mean, how they are played, and what their impact is."