I recall distinctly when the first Famicom (Japan version of the NES) arrived at Melbourne House/BEAM. Fred Milgrom had directed them to reverse engineer it. Nintendo, at that stage, wanted a significant fortune and your first-born child for the rights to program games for it – and Fred wasn’t going down that pathway. The Famicom was actually a 6502-based machine. I was a 6502 guy (as opposed to the Z80 people). It’s not that I really wanted to program the machine, but more that I realised that if it was any good, then I’d have an easy time of it. Little did I know.
How Nintendo threatened to destroy the early Australian Game industry and Beam Software became an accredited developer for the NES. In 1983, when the Famicom was first released in Japan, Beam Software co-founder and CEO Alfred Milgrom travelled to Japan and acquired some machines. He brought them back to the South Melbourne offices of Beam where Adrian Thewlis, disassembled them.
The NES arrived in Australia around July 1987 to a lacklustre reception. Mattel had prepared for the levels of success seen in Japan and the USA – including the pre-ordering of tens of thousands of units. But its marketing of the console as a toy, rather than a video game, saw the console straggle behind its major competitors.
This web portal forms part of Play it Again 2, a game history and preservation project focused on collecting and preserving Australian videogames of the 1990s. Learn more about the projects aims.
In 2015, while undertaking a PhD in which I examined the role of a writer in creating narrative-driven games, I was fortunate enough to speak to four expert writers, each a pioneer in video game narrative design. One of these experts was Veronika M. Megler who, in her...
July 12, 2015 is the release date of my first ever computer game named ‘Jam It’ – an arcade-style 2-on-2 basketball game. What’s unusual is that it’s for a computer which was very popular in the 80s – the Commodore 64. I have been asked many times why even...
Czechoslovakia of the 1980s was a country behind the so-called Iron Curtain. Its economy was in a dire shape and its citizens were either oppressed or annoyed (or both) by its conservative totalitarian regime. It required considerable personal connections to be...
For many British children growing up in the 1980s, the theme tune and sight of the witch in the educational game Granny’s Garden will often evoke a nostalgic response. Following the release of the BBC Micro schools across Britain started to purchase the machine as government initiatives drove to educate a population about the microcomputing revolution.
At one point I was collecting anything and everything I could safely store, cart or console, now I’m far more picky and exclusive. If collecting for long enough, you develop a mental encyclopedia of all the rare stuff and begin an exclusive long term hunting expo.
Collector Michael Davidson – I’ve always had an interest from a young age in computers and videogames and I’m old enough to have grown up during a period when both were new and exciting. I own several items of interest from a New Zealand point of view.
Collector – Andrew Stephen – I was lead into collecting by nothing more than misty-eyed nostalgia. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81. In the early 80s, at 10 or 11 years old, I taught myself to program a ZX81 which was on display in a local electronics shop and eventually convinced my parents to buy one. In 1997 I realised I could use the Internet to try to find a ZX81 again …and play my favourite game of its time – Mazogs.
Collector Alan Laughton. “Back in the 80’s I was also a stamp collector, so collecting came natural. But for computer games, there was a scarcity of games for the Microbee at the time, so one collected everything you could, be it a type-in, public domain, downloaded from a RBBS, swapped with a friend, etc.”
Collector – Nick Hook -I think most collectors have their own nostalgic reasons for doing what they do, or at least that is how it starts. In my case, the Sega SC-3000 was my first computer. It was 1984 and I was 9 years when Mum and Dad brought it home for Christmas. I can still remember the excitement of seeing it plugged in and running for the first time on the little 12″ NEC colour TV they bought to go with it, and the thrill of listening to the Star Jacker theme music.
Collector Andrew Kerr _ I was an avid reader as a child and you could argue that my original game collection consisted of all the Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy books! My personal interest reached the next level when I was gifted a SEGA SC-3000 computer. I became addicted to learning as much as I could about the computers capabilities because I found I wanted to create games instead of just playing them and that became the driver behind me collecting computer games.
On the 19th and 20th June, 2014, the Play It Again team welcomed a fabulously diverse group of scholars and practitioners to Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image for the Born Digital and Cultural Heritage conference. In attendance were Humanities and Computer Science researchers, lawyers, archivists, conservators, librarians, game and net.art preservationists, game developers, and a bunch of interesting others besides. Lively and convivial, with wonderful keynotes from Henry Lowood and Anne Laforet, the event saw many productive lines of inquiry opened up and intersections explored.
The issues for collection managers around games cataloguing are difficult and that may well be why we find 30 years on, the institutional collection and cataloguing of this material is somewhat limited. Similar to the new challenges of ‘Time-Based Media’ cataloguing we find ourselves with the complexities of hardware, software, documentation, versions, platforms, social memory, secondary resource material ….and the box it came in. Play It Again with its emphasis on preserving games of the 1980s, and for us particularly, Australian material, provides the Australian Centre for the moving Image (ACMI) the opportunity to work with academics and industry practitioners in refining our cataloguing work.
The William A. Higinbotham Game Studies Collection (WHGSC) at Stony Brook University is dedicated to documenting the material culture of screen-based game media in general and in specific, collecting and preserving the texts, ephemera, and artifacts that document the history of a 1958 computer simulation designed by Higinbotham that, over the years, has become known as Tennis for Two. The collection is managed and curated by Head of Special Collections and University Archives, and University Archivist, Kristen J. Nyitray, and Associate Professor of Culture and Technology, Raiford Guins.
The history of the collection began when the museum was founded in 1996 by purchasing video game consoles and complementary accessories at auctions and car boot sales. Afterwards it was mainly focused on acquisitions for special exhibitions contributing to a continuously growing inventory of both software and hardware. Since the opening of the museum in early 1997, however, generous donations from many people have become the most important source for our ever-increasing collection.
The curation of videogames, their collection and preservation creates new challenges for the Museum. In 2002, Stanford curator of History of Science and Technology and Film and Media collections Henry Lowood called for new institutional and curatorial models capable of addressing videogames. Yet in a 2011 survey on the state of Digital Preservation, authored by Barwick et al reflected that most heritage institutions remain locked into a traditional object based understanding of collecting, and still do not have policies capable of supporting digital artefacts. There are however a number of organisations dedicated to collecting videogames and although they share a purpose in ensuring the preservation of these significant cultural artefacts their curatorial agendas are not identical but reflect the overall philosophies of the institution.
The New Zealand Film Archive has been aware of the ‘institutional gap’ in this country for several years, with regard to the lack of representation of video games & early computer games within national cultural collections. We are wanting to acquire working examples of software and hardware across the range of formats and platforms that represent the variety that was available and played on amongst the NZ fan communities.
Most early computer games are still protected by copyright and therefore they cannot be archived or made available online (even for not-for-profit purposes like the PlayitAgain project) without the consent of their copyright owners.
However copyright protection will not necessarily protect computer games from game cloners, who base their activities on the fundamental principle that copyright law has never protected an idea; it only protects the expression of an idea. If you are wondering what that means, then you are in good company!
Many copyright works – especially books – have a potentially lengthy commercial lifespan. Of course, longevity does not necessarily equate to commercial success, but the longer a work’s ‘shelf life’, the better the prospects for the owner. Strangely enough, a...
Absent a legal solution for the orphan games, archivists have to balance the risks. On the one hand, to not archive them risks their physical deterioration and loss to our cultural heritage, but does comply with copyright law. On the other hand, to digitally archive the orphan games will preserve them for cultural heritage but there is a risk (maybe quite small but you can never be sure!) that the copyright owner might appear and instigate legal proceedings for copyright infringement.
During April this blog will focus on the legal environment for computer games of the 1980s. This post explains why many early computer games are “orphan works”. (An orphan work is a work which is protected by copyright, but whose rights-owner, or owners, cannot be identified and/or located.) Orphan works cannot be used for purposes which are protected by copyright.
Showcasing gaming achievement was important for many game fans. Home computer fans had no public leader boards like those enjoyed in the arcades but magazines once more came to the rescue of Australian micro computer gamers. Each month with the pages of the Australian edition of PC Games, gamers were invited to send their high scores in ‘Challenge Chamber’.