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Game on! at the Extending Play conference

On September 30th and Saturday the 1st of October the third edition of the Extending Play conference took place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. Game on! attended to present and be inspired about what it means to “excavate the past, interpret the present, and forecast the future of play and games”.

From early television to VR

A relatively small conference (with around 130 attendants), Extending Play still offered a wide variety of topics covering the early history of ‘games’ up until the latest productions in VR.

  • Early traces of interaction with the screen in Winky Dink (click this link for archival awesomeness!), an American TV show that invited kids to draw on a transparent ‘magic’ sheet that would be pasted unto the TV screen itself. The show was stopped because kids without the ‘magic’ screen drew directly unto the expensive TV screen, much to their parents’ dismay. A great presentation by Kelsey Cameron, who managed to have a nuanced discussion of what interactivity entails.

  • About Virtual Reality as an ‘empathy machine’. A richly illustrated presentation by Marina Hassapopoulou, showing how historical documentary VR applications, such as 8:46, in which players are put in the Twin Towers on 9/11. These type of games make for a much more intense, visceral experience, yet the visceral experience isn’t necessarily linked to the historical event, causing a kind of ‘a-historical empathy’.

Extending play through preservation

But of course we were mostly interested in presentations relating to the preservation of computergames.

  • A presentation by Patrick Davison from NYU on emulating what he calls ‘type-in games’: listings that got distributed in printed magazines from the eighties and were typed in by players before they were able to play it. In emulators these games can be copy-pasted, instead of typed, which eliminates an important element of the game experience. What is interesting with these type-in games is that there was no authoritative speed at which they were supposed to run. They often came with instructions on where in the code the game could be adjusted and this was common practice. In emulators then, where the speed at which a game runs is quite often different from the speed at which it originally ran, can be adjusted. It was an interesting suggestion that different types of games could be more (or less) suited for certain strategies of preservation due to their formal and material properties.
  • Jedd Hakimi presented on MoMA’s game collection. An interesting parallel was drawn with MoMA’s collection of film which, when it was first acquired in 1935, was a significant influence in valorizing film as a real art form that deserved due attention in museums. The approach to preserving and presenting this games was very much on their esthetic, and not so much on the underlying gameplay and technology.

  • A final paper that explicitly addressed issues of game preservation was Stéphanie Cadieux’s research on games in North American university libraries. Her interviews with librarians suggest that even though there are quite significant game collections at some universities (with sometimes thousands of games), little if any attention is paid to long-term preservation and accessibility to the games. 

Game On! was presented, more specifically the part in which we have experimented with the recording of Let’s Play video’s as a way of preserving gameplay. But more on this later on this blog!

More information

  • Full Program to the conference can be found here.
  • Slides of the Game On! presentation can be found here.