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A new exercise in video game preservation

A team of National Endowment for the Humanities grant recipients from the University of California, Santa Cruz discuss their plans to build a unified approach to game preservation.
The National Endowment for the Humanities' Office of Digital Humanities is one of several federal organizations within the United States offering grants for game developers and scholars. Gamasutra spoke with ODH to learn more about the office's grant offerings during our recent alternative funding week. Here, the ODH speaks with a team of grant recipients from the Expressive Intelligence Studio at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who are using their startup grant to develop preservationist techniques for complex modern software. The team's test case is Prom Week, an IndieCade and Independent Games Festival finalist and winner of multiple accolades. The product of the same Expressive Intelligence Studio as the preservationist team, Prom Week's staggeringly complex design proves a tall task for preservation -- which is why it was selected in the first place. "Because [Prom Week] is inherently complicated and robustly developed, we felt that it represented one of the more difficult targets for archiving in the academic game space," explains team member Eric Kantwell. "This potential difficulty and complexity is a good thing because it will enable us to look at Prom Week deeply from many methodological angles that will definitely map to methods for archiving simpler games and software." The team seeks to archive Prom Week's development documents and prototypes, things which can "help future researchers better understand the game development process." "We're definitely interested in... moving beyond just the final, released build of games and other highly-interactive media experiences," says fellow preservationist Noah Wardrip Fruin. "What were the paths not taken? Why didn't they end up in the final version? Was the decision based on a hunch? A technical, economic, or temporal constraint? The results of playtesting? Dictates from management?" "In this project we're working on a proof of concept for an archival approach that can help people interested in such questions in the future," he added. You can read the entire interview at the Office of Digital Humanities' website.

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