The Opposable Thumbs blog has an interview with Jerome McDonough of the University of Illinois, who is involved with the Preserving Virtual Worlds
project. The goal of the project is to recognize video games as cultural artifacts and to make sure they're accessible by future generations
. Here McDonough talks about some of the technical difficulties in doing so:
"Take, for example, Star Raiders on the Atari 2600. If you're going to preserve this, you've got a couple of problems. The first is that it is on a cartridge that is designed to work on a particular system that is no longer manufactured. And as long as you've got a hardware dependency there, you're really not going to be able to preserve this material very long. What we have been looking at is how feasible is it for things that fundamentally all have some level of hardware dependency there — even Doom has dependencies on DLLs with an operating system, and on particular chipsets and architectures for playing. How do you take that and turn it into something that isn't as dependent on a particular physical piece of hardware. And to do that, you need information about that platform. You need technical specifications that allow you to basically reproduce a virtualization that may enable you to run the software in its original form in the future. So what we're trying to do is preserve not only the games, but preserve the knowledge that you would need to create a virtualization platform to play the game."