Saving in Progress…: The Impact of Policy on Video Game Preservation

Leo Barton
Master’s Student, Department of Cultural Resources, Taipei National University of the Arts, Taiwan.


Over the last four decades video games have not received sufficient preservation or archival resulting in many works being considered lost. This is still the case today, despite being a cultural practice the majority of Americans engage in to some degree (ESA 2021). This paper analyses the current state of video game preservation efforts in four parts. First, locating video games place in the cultural landscape of the digital era, identifying the factors which make video games a culturally significant force today. Second, identifying the broad, categorical obstacles which prevent adequate preservation. Third, analysing specific national and international legislation which has shaped, and limited, preservation efforts. And, finally, uncovering the effects of such legislation on institution and fan-led preservation efforts. Together, this paper highlights three broad challenges in preserving video games, past and present— public perception, object accessibility and legal accessibility. In turn inviting further inquiry and implementation to improve the policy surrounding video game preservation. These hurdles must be overcome before “historians lose objects that have made a significant cultural impact on the society of the late twentieth century and early twenty-first” (Hudgins 2011, 32).

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