Jane Thaler, Amanda Weston, and Aaron Davis 2017-03-09 11:51:56
Representations of Archives in Video Games — A Mutual Appreciation of Game Creators and Archivists Video games and virtual worlds lie at a unique intersection of aesthetics and culture with an added layer of ultracomplex coding. While the value of researching these social and creative platforms in many fields is beginning to be recognized, digital preservation practices in archival repositories continue to struggle when dealing with these complicated forms of media. The Internet Archive, among many other archival institutions, is doing wonderful work with older games through their Internet Arcade and Console Living Room projects, but the true challenge lies in keeping up with contemporary games that are “more technologically complex, more interdependent, and less accessible.” (1) The problem is compounded by the fact that “we are producing them at a rate that dwarfs their previous historical outputs, and that will terminally outpace future preservation efforts.” (2) The authors—as gamers, archivists, and a technology addiction researcher—see video games as interesting cultural heritage tools that are deserving of archival preservation and academic study. While we are extremely biased and know that not all may share our enthusiasm, we do think that there is one particularly “cool” aspect of video games that all archivists can appreciate: many of the most popular games have missions or quests revolving around the importance of archival materials or repositories. Here are a few of our favorite games featuring archives. At the very least, this list shows a level of professional appreciation for archives that may suggest the reciprocal is due. In video-game speak, we archivists do not have to be noobs but have the opportunity to be experienced players in game preservation. Dark Souls (FromSoftware, Namco Bandai Games JP) Mission: The Duke’s Archives “The Archive Tower, once a trove of precious tomes and letters, became a prison after the onset of Seath’s madness. The serpent men who guard the prison know not the value of what they hide.” –Archive Tower Cell Key You are a cursed undead who is tasked with fulfilling a prophecy to feed the flame of the Age of Fire in the mysterious and unforgiving world of Dark Souls. A large tower in Anor Londo houses “The Duke’s Archives,” which contains resources for weapon, crystal, and magic ember acquisition. However, the building has been turned into a prison after Seath the Scaleless drove himself mad through obsession of his own research. You must fight your way through Seath’s grotesque creations to gain access to the rich sources of knowledge held in the archives. Destiny (Bungie, Inc.) Mission: The Archive As a Guardian of the last city on Earth, you are charged with protecting what remains and defeating a diverse set of enemies while wielding the power of the Traveler. Putting aside the somewhat muddied storyline, the thirteenth story mission, “The Archive,” requires you to fight your way through the Vex and Fallen to secure priceless Golden Age knowledge. This vaulted repository poses the wonderfully apt challenge of repairing broken conduits while fighting the scourge of the solar system to fully extract information. The room is filled with large vertical cylinders and raised walkways, headed by a main access desk and several personal research stations along the wall. Fallout 4 (Bethesda Softworks, LLC) Location: Boston Public Library “If we don’t collect everything, then what’s the point?” –Givens Log 5/21 Set in 2287, 310 years after The Great War that resulted in nuclear devastation, you emerge from cryogenic stasis as a vault dweller, searching for your abducted son. When roaming the library for loot or as part of the Public Knowledge quest (wherein you clear out super mutants living in the library to find and return a lost book), you might run into the now deceased Curator Givens. He was a part of a team dedicated to collecting and preserving books by scanning them into a digital archives. You have the option of aiding the cause by compressing the data to holodisk. For more Fallout fun, see Fallout 3 for a post-apocalyptic exploration of the National Archives in Washington, DC. Mass Effect 3 (BioWare, EA International, Ltd.) Mission: Citadel Archives: Escape As Commander Shepard, an elite soldier in the Mass Effect series, you are positioned between a rock and a hard place: an imminent Reaper harvest of humanity is on the horizon and you have no galactic Council backup. In an effort to gain favor among other species, Shepard decides to help various groups with their own battles to gain them as allies in the Reaper war. Early in the game, you need to find the group behind an important identity theft and assassination attempt, which leads you straight to the archives. Archival holdings are stored in extremely large cylindrical vaults (think larger than a semi-trailer) that are stacked into mountains, but easily organized and accessed through an automated system. Supposedly highly secure, the archives hold everything from government documents and recordings to physical artifacts of galactic importance. While we chose the most recent Mass Effect game, the first Mass Effect’s “Find the Conduit” mission also relies heavily on archives as a location and for pivotal information gathering. Shin Megami Tensei, Persona 3 (Atlus USA, Inc.) Items: Old Documents The Persona series, created in Japan, explores the human psyche and the idea of “self” by drawing on psychology and mythology. Personas, or manifestations of the characters’ inner archetypal selves, draw from a variety of influences, such as Japanese deities, Greco-Roman mythology, and historical outlaws. The characters do not exactly use an archival repository, but they do take advantage of library and reference materials to enhance characters’ attributes, which in turn influences battle style and character interactions. Persona 3 includes a more obvious archival aspect by requiring the player to collect eight Old Documents written by a Kirijo Group researcher while Shadow experiments were taking place. These documents allow the player to move forward through the game and reveal the creation story of the enemy Shadows. Notes (1) Eric Kaltman, June 6, 2016, “Current Game Preservation Is Not Enough,” Erik Kaltman’s Blog, http://web.stanford.edu/group/htgg/cgi-bin/drupal/?q=node/1211. (2) Ibid.
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