from the archiving-art dept
A couple of years ago, we discussed the work being done, essentially by one enterprising individual going by the handle “Peebs,” to archive a bunch of retro video game manuals for the sake of preservation. Earlier this year, we updated you all with the fairly impressive news that every SNES game manual had been digitized by Peebs. As we said in those posts, there were two major takeaways I had when learning about these efforts. First, it’s a good thing that fair use allows for this sort of non-commercial archiving to even take place. That’s important because of the second takeaway I had, which is that it sucks that these preservation efforts have been left for hobbyists or other individuals, rather than being an effort led by any of the content creators themselves.
Video games are art and they are culture. In addition, the game manuals that come along with those games are art and culture as well. The idea that any of that culture and art should fall into rarity or non-existence simply because the direct parties are uninterested in doing the work to preserve them is not something society would expect for other forms of art and culture. Fair use being a defense at trial is helpful, but these individuals still take the risk of reprisal or legal action by undergoing these efforts. Again, this sucks.
Fortunately, individuals that appreciate the cultural aspect of all of this continue to volunteer their efforts to preserve the art surrounding video games. Most recently we have the story of another individual, going by “Kirkland”, who has managed to digitize every single English language PlayStation 2 game manual online.
“The goal is to raise some awareness for game preservation efforts,” Kirkland told Kotaku. “So many games growing up shaped how we looked at and experienced the world. Of course as we ‘grow up,’ we move to other things but there are a lot of us who have nostalgia for these things and want our kids to be able to enjoy what we did. The whole ‘read the books your father read’ deal. And there have been great efforts to preserve games: VGHF, the Strong Museum, and grassroots efforts like MAME, redump.org, No-Intro, and Cowering’s Good Tools before that. Which I always thought, ‘This is great! We’re going to have everything preserved. But without the manuals, we’re not going to know how to play them.’”
Sadly, this is an aggressively manual process for Kirkland. It means tracking down all of these manuals, which is a tedious process all on its own. From there, he must remove the staples from the manuals and then scan them through a flatbed scanner, page by page, game by game. From there, software is utilized to clean up the images and present them in a manner consistent with Kirkland’s standards. From there, they get uploaded to Archive.org.
None of this, as you might imagine, is cheap.
Kirkland said he dropped about $40,000 on his U.S. PS2 collection as he methodically bought every U.S. release over the course of 22 years. “I grabbed new releases when they got down to $20 for about the first 800 releases, then I started picking up used sports games in good condition, then it was hunting down the odd variants (which is never-ending).”
“In the future, I’d love to have an AI that can truly reconstruct the text and images as they were intended, correcting skew and properly descreening without blurring line art,” he said. “As it is, no one really wants a 600 dpi scan with staple holes and black edges, they just want the polished, finished project.“
Which brings me back to one of my main themes with all of this: it’s great that folks like Kirkland are willing to lead these preservation efforts and that legal threats and/or action appear to be few and far between on them, but this shouldn’t be left to hobbyists. I don’t expect everyone reading this post to care about the art of video game manuals as much as as I do, but they are art. They are culture.
And the idea that the preserveration for all that art and culture is left to a haphazard effort by random individuals simply isn’t how preservation should be done.
Filed Under: archives, copyright, fair use, kirkland, peebs, playstation, ps2, video game manuals, video games