Video Game History Foundation: Nintendo Actions 'Actively Destructive To Video Game History'

from the ding-ding-ding! dept

I’ve been banging on a bit lately about the importance of video game preservation as a matter of art preservation. It’s not entirely clear to me how much buy in there is out there in general on this concept, but it’s a challenge in this specific industry because much of the control over what can be preserved or not sits in the hands of game publishers and platforms compared with other forms of art. Books have libraries, films have the academies and museums, and music is decently preserved all over the place. But for gaming, even organizations like the Video Game History Foundation have to rely on publishers and platforms to let them do their work, or risk art being lost entirely to the digital ether or lawsuits over copyright. We’ve talked in the past about how copyright law is far too often used in a way that results in a loss of our own cultural history, and digital-only video games are particularly vulnerable to that.

We just discussed Nintendo’s forthcoming shutdown of the 3DS and Wii U stores, and what that meant for digital games that Nintendo indicates it is not planning on selling anywhere else. Well, the Video Game History Foundation released a statement on that action and, well, hoo-boy…

While it is unfortunate that people won’t be able to purchase digital 3DS or Wii U games anymore, we understand the business reality that went into this decision. What we don’t understand is what path Nintendo expects its fans to take, should they wish to play these games in the future. As a paying member of the Entertainment Software Association, Nintendo actively funds lobbying that prevents even libraries from being able to provide legal access to these games. Not providing commercial access is understandable, but preventing institutional work to preserve these titles on top of that is actively destructive to video game history. We encourage ESA members like Nintendo to rethink their position on this issue and work with existing institutions to find a solution.

Accusing Nintendo of being “actively destructive to video game history” is a hell of a charge, but point out where it’s wrong. I’ll wait.

The problem here is that video games are still seen, both by the public and producers, as something less than the kind of artistic output of literature, paintings, sculptures, or movies. Imagine a world where someone took the collective works of Monet or Bach, shutdown the venue in which you could pay to see them, and then also indicated that nobody else was allowed to display them for commercial benefit or not. Nobody would accept such a situation. That is culture and it belongs, in at least some small ways, to all of us.

Either because the history of video games is much more recent, or due to stodgy hand-waiving about how these games are not “real art”, far less fur is raised over Nintendo taking these actions without any guarantee, or in some cases hostility, to preservation efforts. Yes, Nintendo has directly produced many of these games and it has rights for them due to that. But those games are also part of our shared cultural history, and no individual or company is, or should be, afforded the right to determine how we document that cultural history.

If nothing else, that certainly isn’t the purpose of copyright law.

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Companies: nintendo, video game history foundation

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Comments on “Video Game History Foundation: Nintendo Actions 'Actively Destructive To Video Game History'”

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Space5000 (profile) says:

Section 108

I am curious if Section 108 of the Copyright law actually can save those classic Nintendo games? Though I’m hoping it allows the same for infringing Nintendo game copies too, just in case that’s generally the only thing left when it comes to old Nintendo games itself. I partly say this because I found this strange document about revising 108: (look at page 2 where they talk about c.). Though I’m probably misreading it.

I also heard a case that contract law prevented some kind of public domain information from being reproduced, which is a big yikes in general.

Arijirija says:

Games connections with other forms of art

FWIW, games do have connections with other artforms. I laughed when I heard that the band name "Smashing Pumpkins" was a reference to some of DooM’s monsters, the big bloated heads that spat fire. Again, DooM seems to have contributed to the opening scene in WoT novel "Lord of Chaos", where power-mad Forsaken Demandred arrives at Shoyl Ghul and the sky is full of striated clouds in strange colours … the same sort of clouds you find looking out of any DooMed window. Those are the two just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are hundreds of other examples.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The SPISPOPD, or “Smashing Pumpkins Into Small Piles of Putrid Debris”⁠

Was from the old days of UseNet where some users complained that EVERYONE was talking about DooM. And it was "Taking up precious download time getting those messages."

A user stated:
" Listen up, ID Software!

Next time you have an impending release of a much anticipated
game, make sure its name is not so cool-sounding as DOOM and much
longer to eliminate all of the casual "Where can I get xxx" posts.
How about "Smashing Pumpkins Into Small Piles Of Putrid Debris" for
the next game?"

That’s also why there’s a cheat in Doom 1/2, SPISPOPD

Anonymous Coward says:

Gaming is just part of culture, it maybe a financial matter, eg the no of people buying wi u games or 3ds games is small Nintendo wants people to buy games on the switch digital store , in 10 years time how many 3ds consoles will still work . Its easier for Xbox games to be preserved as they as based on directx pc programming apps eg old Xbox games can be made to work on any new consoles in the future
Nintendo uses its own distinct programming Os tools not based on the Windows pc os
Maybe future consoles will be based on the Switch os as new Nintendo consoles are released every 5 years leaving the wi u behind s a legacy console

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


Nintendo wants people to buy games on the switch digital store , in 10 years time how many 3ds consoles will still work

Given that plenty of older NES consoles and handhelds still work decades after their release, I’d say the chances are good. And if Nintendo wanted people to buy older games on the Switch⁠—whether the copy is physical or digital⁠—it should release those older games for the Switch.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Maybe future consoles will be based on the Switch os as new Nintendo consoles are released every 5 years leaving the wi u behind s a legacy console

Wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. The Switch seems to be quite easy both to develop for and port games to. Despite the hardware not being as graphically impressive as Nintendo’s competitors, it honestly doesn’t need to be. The game should be enjoyable first and foremost, and as the number of buggy AAA releases and quality indie titles has shown, powerful graphics aren’t what decides that.

Bloof (profile) says:

It’s not just Nintendo, unfortunately. It’s every walled garden system. Microsoft set the precedent of shuttering their online marketplaces and scattering their indie content well before Nintendo got in on the act when they closed the 360 marketplace with vague promises of helping preserve indie live games that never amounted to much.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s not entirely clear to me how much buy in there is out there in general on this concept

i don’t know how much buy-in there has ever been for this concept ever, outside a handful of people and institutions. People, writ large, don’t seem to care until anywhere between 20 and 3000 years in the future, when they can refer to some mysterious ancient shit and make up whatever stories they want about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

At this point...

At this point… Fairly sure it’s hypocritical to declare video games as not art.

John Cage’s 4′33″ was declared as art.
Literally blank canvases were put in a museum and declared as art.
A banana duck taped to a wall was declared art.

Knowing that, can we really argue a video game isn’t art?

We’ve had games that tell a story, like What Remains of Edith Finch and To the Moon.
We’ve had games that give you puzzles using interesting game mechanics, like the Portal games and Superliminal.
We’ve had games that have commentary on a meta level, like The Stanley Parable and The Beginner’s Guide.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nintendo shutter unprofitable virtual console

except physical parts have there own problems
Like the breaking disc drives in PS2s
or metal contacts in cartridges
or disc rot
or with some GB/GBA games… battery failure in the cartridges

With no method of getting more copies those games and a natural dwindling supply… Yea, actively destroying is an accurate description.

Leo Phillip (profile) says:

Nintendo is closing down the Wii U and 3DS eShops, meaning that soon you will no longer be able to buy digital games on either platform.

Of course, this change won’t take place until March 2023, which means there’s still time for you to grab all the downloadable games you can fit in your digital arms and run. But with credit card payment support ending sooner on May 23rd, 2022, and Nintendo eShop cards ceasing to redeem from August 29th, 2022, we want to make sure that you get those games in time, and don’t run into any lack-of-fund-related mishaps. By the way, there are some good Nintendo games on

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