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The Video Game History Foundation Will Safeguard Gaming's Past

Earlier today, video game historian and former journalist Frank Cifaldi launched the Video Game History Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving video game history "one byte at a time."

At the centerpiece of the Video Game History Foundation's preservation efforts is the VGHF Digital Library, a one-stop place to find high-resolution scans of video game boxes and manuals, playable and unaltered game back-ups, old marketing materials, and as much internal documentation about a game as the VGHF can find.


The Foundation also plans to establish a physical archive (which is, at the moment, currently comprised of Cifaldi's personal collection), to collaborate with museums in order to make artifacts from gamings' past available to fans and scholars, and to reach out to developers and other video game industry professionals in order to educate them about how to best preserve their games' legacies.

Currently, only one VGHF collection is available online—the still-growing "NES Launch Collection"—but more should follow shortly

In an interview with Polygon, Cifaldi discussed how difficult video game preservation really is, and what sets the VGHF's mission apart from similar efforts to document the history of film and television. "If we're talking about the notion of preserving a film, then it's... really just finding the best print, scanning it and restoring it," Cifaldi says. Games are different. "You can extract the binary data off of ROM chips and have an exact copy of that game," Cifaldi says, "but actually being able to play that has its own challenges."


In order to execute preserved code, historians need to use either a fully-functional software emulator (which can raise issues about exactly how authentic the gameplay experience is) or old consoles, which break down as time passes and require regular maintenance. Spread that effort out among all the different game consoles and related devices that have appeared over time, and you start to get an idea of how daunting the VGHF's self-set goals actually are.

As a non-profit, the Video Game History Foundation will rely on tax-deductible donations to survive. Fans can head over to the VGHF's website now to set up a one-time or a recurring donation, or you can support the Foundation via Patreon, which gives you access to "behind-the-scenes blog posts" and other goodies. The VGHF is going to need as much money as it can get, too—as any video game collector knows, getting ahold of some of the rarest retro titles can be extremely expensive.