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.