Video game cache serves as an archive, at play

Col­lec­tion at Univer­sity |of Michi­gan fea­tures more than 7,000 ti­tles

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - MIKE HOUSEHOLDER

The Univer­sity of Michi­gan col­lects video games. Lots of them. The Ann Arbor univer­sity’s Com­puter and Video Game Archive fea­tures more than 7,000 ti­tles — ev­ery­thing from time-hon­oured favourites such as “Pac-Man” and “Frog­ger” to newer fare, in­clud­ing “Call of Duty” and “Halo”— on dozens of gam­ing sys­tems.

Now in its 10th year, the CVGA col­lects video games in the same way that other ar­chives pur­sue books, jour­nals or historical ar­ti­facts.

“It’s im­por­tant to have an archive like this, be­cause games are part of our cul­ture,” said Dave Carter, who got it up and run­ning in 2008.

Carter, who serves as a ref­er­ence ser­vices li­brar­ian and the CVGA’s ar­chiv­ist, pre­vi­ously was a lec­turer at Michi­gan’s School of In­for­ma­tion and is trained as an elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer, spe­cial­iz­ing in op­tics and ra­dio waves.

He’s also a life­long video game fan, hav­ing made fre­quent use of an Atari 2600 as a kid.

“If you’d told 12-year-old me that this would be part of my job grow­ing up, I’d think that was pretty cool,” he said with a smile.

The archive is open to any­one — stu­dents and mem­bers of the pub­lic alike.

Carter said he can’t speak about what other video game ar­chives around the coun­try are do­ing, but that “we were cer­tainly one of the first that opened our doors to al­low peo­ple to come in and use the game on their own.”

Peo­ple like Jeremy Bolen. The restau­rant em­ployee from Ann Arbor stops by three or four times a week, some­times be­fore head­ing to work.

Dur­ing a re­cent visit, Bolen fired up “League of Leg­ends,” an on­line fan­tasy game, on one of the archive’s PCs.

“It’s kind of awe­some that the video game archive here just has pretty much any­thing you can think of,” Bolen said. “Any game you’d re­ally want to play, you can play.”

Ini­tially sit­u­ated on the se­cond floor of the Dud­er­stadt Cen­ter, which houses U-M’s art, ar­chi­tec­ture and en­gi­neer­ing li­brary, the archive moved in 2011 to a big­ger space in the base­ment.

Ap­proach the archive’s desk, hand the at­ten­dant an ID — stu­dent or oth­er­wise — and the whole his­tory of com­puter gam­ing be­comes avail­able.

Vis­i­tors can play on ev­ery­thing from an Atari or a Com­modore 64 to a PlayS­ta­tion 4 or an Xbox 360.

Gamers are asked to keep it down while they play in the CVGA’s main area Mon­day through Thurs­day, but man­agers don’t en­force low sound lev­els as strictly on Fri­day. That’s the day vis­i­tors can play one of the archive’s most pop­u­lar games, “Su­per Smash Bros.”

The archive is funded by the Univer­sity of Michi­gan Li­brary Sys­tem and has a bud­get to buy games as they’re re­leased. It also ac­cepts dona­tions, which ac­count for about half of its hold­ings.

While it would be nice to fill the archive’s shelves with ev­ery video game ever made, bud­getary con­sid­er­a­tions and the rapid-fire re­lease of new ti­tles make that an un­re­al­is­tic col­lec­tion strat­egy.

“We can’t have ev­ery­thing in here,” Carter said. “But I want to have a good, broad rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the dif­fer­ent types of games that are out there.” er.It’s not all fun and games, howev

In­struc­tors hold class ses­sions there, and sev­eral stu­dent re­searchers have used the Forza rac­ing game se­ries to study tex­ting while driv­ing. An in­struc­tor in the his­tory depart­ment teach­ing a class on Sa­mu­rai brought stu­dents to the archive to ex­plore ways the mem­bers of the hered­i­tary war­rior class in feu­dal Ja­pan are de­picted in games.

“Like all things of pop­u­lar cul­ture, even­tu­ally peo­ple want to study it se­ri­ously. And you never think of col­lect­ing that stuff when it was first com­ing out,” Carter said.

CAR­LOS OSORIO, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Tyler Aman takes a few min­utes to play a video game at the Com­puter and Video Game Archive at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan in Ann Arbor.

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