It’s More Than Emulation - Towards a Proactive Approach to Games Preservation

The games industry has been notoriously neglectful towards the act of preservation since the establishment of the medium, often leaving acts of archival to the eleventh hour. Whilst some of the larger studios, such Electronic Arts have adopted a more inclusive archival process, the damage has already been done, and the consequences are beginning starting to loom over the industry. Around 87% of all games released prior to the advent of digital storefronts are commercially unavailable - a worse survival rate than the legendarily ephemeral American Silent Film era of motion pictures. Furthermore, the impact of non-existent preservation practices has already been observed in active game development, such as a prolonged development cycle, missing assets and redoing work that had already been done even just a few years prior. 

In the field of games preservation, most current research is centered on retroactive preservation - that is to say, preserving a game once it has already been released. This research is very important and is actively fighting to save culturally significant games that have otherwise been neglected by their IP holders. However, this research does not account for the reason this problem keeps occurring in the first place - developers are not proactively preserving their games for many valid reasons, such as a lack of manpower, resources, or funds. 

The research objective of this project is to discover methods of proactive preservation that developers can deploy during the development cycle of any given game designed to run on any given platform. This project aims to determine a framework that developers can realistically use to preserve a game in the throes of development, whilst remaining cost effective and time effective. The end product of this framework should preserve a game’s ecosystem and could be used as a blueprint to rebuild the game in question for any platform at any time.