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How to preserve games for the future? Recreate them

In a new Gamasutra feature, Stanford curator Henry Lowood admits while many games were not adequately preserved, or can never be, recreating data that they need to run is an option.
In a new Gamasutra feature, Stanford curator Henry Lowood admits while many games were not adequately preserved, or can never be, recreating data that they need to run is an option. In cases where games are damaged or data has been corrupted, Lowood and his team will sometimes hire data recovery specialists to see if they can salvage things. In other cases, there may be a need to simply recreate data from scratch. "The strategy of 'recreation' has been developed most strongly in the area of new media art and digital art with museums," Lowood said. "There have been installations in the past that were set up and you can't really install things in the way they were in the past. It's impossible. Let's say someone did something in 1989 that involved drawing data from a stock market feed. You're not going to be able to do the same stuff that they did. The technology is different, the stock data is different." When classic games are to be presented to new audiences, it's about providing not just the game itself, but the context around the game, so the exhibitors and the public can understand them. "So there's a group that's been working on new media art that's developed an approach to that," said Lowood. "They use a questionnaire with the artist to learn what the artist's intentions were, what kind of equipment they used." They basically put together a package so that in the future somebody could recreate that exhibit. What you preserve is more about information about the artist's intentions, photographs of what it looked like, or video." The full feature, which dives into the the twin notions of presenting art games in museums and preserving commercial games as art, is live now on Gamasutra.

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