from the hold-on-to-your-butts dept
Nearly two years ago, we discussed a fascinating project spearheaded by one dedicated person, going by the moniker Peebs, to digitize every video game manual’s English version for the Super Nintendo system. For those of you not of a certain age, video games used to come in the form of cartridges that you would load into the console. Those cartridges came packaged with game manuals that did everything from tell you how to play the game, up to and including game lore and backstory. Again, if you were born at the right time like yours truly, reading the manual upon buying the game, sometimes in the back of your Mom’s Plymouth Voyager minivan on the way back from Toys ‘R Us, was part of the excitement.
But, for a variety of reasons including both the timespan since these games came out, the physical nature of the manuals, and Nintendo’s neglect when it comes to preservation, these bits of gaming culture were under threat of historical erasure. Where Peebs and his volunteers came in was in spending nearly a decade collecting and digitizing those manuals without collecting a dime in payment, donations, or ad revenue. Two years ago, the project had about 100 manuals to go to be complete.
Today, however, the project is done and Peebs’ group says it has digitized every single English language SNES game manual out there.
Whether or not you care about gaming culture such as this, the undertaking is undeniably impressive. And, frankly, fueled by an oft-villified internet. Peebs made the archive available publicly when he had managed to collect roughly half the English game manuals out there. From there, a community sprung up around the site, with enthusiasts putting the word out all over the internet that someone was archiving these manuals for preservation. The internet did its thing, Peebs and his volunteers got the remaining manuals, and here we are.
Which leaves us with two questions while we celebrate this achievement. First, thus far Nintendo has been entirely hands off with Peebs’ work. That’s despite plenty of publications from the gaming industry taking notice of the work. That seems to suggest that maybe Nintendo either knows that this is covered by fair use or tacitly supports the project… but it’s Nintendo, so you can never be sure. It should shock exactly nobody if the company suddenly swoops in and tries to shut the site down.
And, second, why the hell is it up to a bunch of fans and volunteers to do the work of archivists? Surely Nintendo could have marshalled more resources and gotten this all done more quickly, no? So why didn’t it? Why does it seem that the only people doing the work of preserving the art of video games are the fans?