Story below. Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/12/ar...prod=permalink
When Henry Lowood, curator of the History of Science and Technology Collections at Stanford University, started preserving video games and video-game artifacts in 1998 he thought it was closer to professional oblivion than a bold new move into the future.
In just a few years, however, Mr. Lowood’s notion that video games were something with a history worth preserving and a culture worth studying has gone from absurd to worthy of consideration by the Library of Congress.
On Thursday at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Mr. Lowood announced a game canon, an idea that grew out of a proposal submitted to the Library of Congress in September 2006 by a consortium made up of Stanford, the University of Maryland and the University of Illinois.
“Creating this list is an assertion that digital games have a cultural significance and a historical significance,” Mr. Lowood said in an interview. And if that is acknowledged, he said, “maybe we should do something about preserving them.”
Mr. Lowood and the four members of his committee — the game designers Warren Spector and Steve Meretzky; Matteo Bittanti, an academic researcher; and Christopher Grant, a game journalist — announced their list of the 10 most important video games of all time: Spacewar! (1962), Star Raiders (1979), Zork (1980), Tetris (1985), SimCity (1989), Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990), Civilization I/II (1991), Doom (1993), Warcraft series (beginning 1994) and Sensible World of Soccer (1994).
Mr. Lowood’s canon was closely modeled on the work of the National Film Preservation Board, which every year compiles a list of films to be added to the National Film Registry, managed by the Library of Congress since 1989 (a consequence of the National Film Preservation Act, passed in 1988). The first list of films included “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Searchers” and “Nanook of the North.”
Almost all of the games on the Lowood list represent the beginning of a genre still vital in the video game industry. Spacewar!, for example, created by a group of early computer programmers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the first multiplayer, competitive game, and the first action game too. The first three Warcraft games represent the introduction of real-time strategy overlaid on a narrative; and Zork introduced the world to the adventure game.
SimCity helped establish the genre known as god games, in which players take on an omnipotent role, controlling the game world rather than simply participating in it. It also broke convention by refusing to establish criteria for winning, leaving the decision of what constituted success up to the player.
SimCity was selected by Mr. Bittanti, a researcher at the Humanities Lab at Stanford who works with Mr. Lowood. The game is “one of the most important art works of the 20th century,” Mr. Bittanti said, adding: “It completely reinvented the whole notion of games. And then it transcended the game world to become a cultural phenomenon.”
SimCity and its four follow-ups have sold 17 million copies, and the franchise it spawned, the Sims, has sold 85 million copies.
Mr. Grant, the editor of the popular Web site joystiq.com, who selected Super Mario Bros. 3, said the game was important for its nonlinear play, a mainstay of contemporary games, and new features like the ability to move both backward and forward.
Mr. Lowood said that preserving video games presented certain challenges. For example the hardware that games are played on changes so frequently that there are already thousands that can only be played through computer programs called emulators, which, while readily available on the Internet, technically violate copyright laws.
“We have to be really careful here because the technology is just going to make this harder for us,” Mr. Spector said. “The game canon is a way of saying, this is the stuff we have to protect first.”