Begin establishing games collections at the Libraries

Everett Malone
December 17, 2015

I have spent much of my time here at MIT exploring the sheer breadth of what the libraries offer. As a literature major, I have been consistently impressed with the sheer breadth and scope of MIT’s library collection. Despite my interest in increasingly old and niche titles about literary theory (not exactly a topic which one would expect MIT to care about), it is extremely rare for me to look up a book and find that the library does not have it. Moreover, I am able to access almost every literature journal I can name thanks to the library’s diverse set of journal subscriptions. My academic growth in the past two years owes more to the MIT libraries than I can name.
Yet, there is something about the libraries which I find distinctly less impression: the non-existence of any sort of library collections of games (electronic or otherwise, though I will admit my concerns focus mainly on video games), despite the enormous number of faculty and students at MIT interested in studying games and game culture. Because the software on which video games rely is continually being obsoleted, many old games are becoming unplayable over time. Moreover, as many games and consoles are made using materials which perish relatively quickly, it is not unimaginable that working copies of many consoles will cease to exist in the near future. In games studies, there is a growing sense of the importance and need to develop an infrastructure for the mass archival of games, and, just as with books and film, I would argue that there is a huge benefit as well for academics to have access to large libraries of games which can easily be accessed for research purposes.
I am aware of the difficulties of what I am suggesting: there are few schools out there with games archives, leaving a lack of established procedure for how this kind of thing ought to work. There are also substantial legal and material questions as yet unanswered. How does such a library ‘lend’ out games? How does one prevent the copying of works? How would this work with more contemporary games with more substantial digital rights management? That said, I think the MIT Libraries are in a unique position: we have the money, institutional mission, and potential faculty support to have a library and archive of games unmatched by anywhere else in the world.

Why do you care about library spaces, collections, and services?: 

Libraries allow people access to a wide range of books (and, increasingly, films) which they could otherwise never see due to problems of both expense and rarity. I want to see libraries one day offer a similar range of access to games and other media that are at this point unarchived and vulnerable to permanent loss.