A Visit To The Digital Game Museum

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(Updated 7/9/2014 as the Atari party was sponsored by a separate group)

So my local video game group had an outing to the Digital Game Museum. I’m going to write about it because it’s relevant. I wish I had a better lead in to something so important, so let’s talk about why it’s important . . .

Now when you think about it there should be freaking giant museums of video games. There’re a huge industry. They’ve been influential in culture and technology. They’re omnipresent. They helped inspire some really bad films. The industry is re-inventing itself.

But there’s surprisingly little in the way of game museums that I could find. There’s the travelling Video Game History Museum. I hear of art shows of game art. There’s some gaming at the Computer History Museum, but not much – and this is Silicon Valley.

Locally there’s the MADE in Oakland and down in the Valley proper, there’s the Digital Game Museum. You’d think there’d be more, and I can probably find it, but still the fact it’s so hard to find game museums is a bit sad.

And when I visited the Digital Game Museum, it was amazing.  Visiting was an experience because it’s a testimony to love, to geekdom, and to a need to do more to preserve our video game history.


So when my group rolled up to the museum, we found it was small. Really small. Mostly it’s an archive with a few exhibits that rotate.

If that shocks you it shocked a lot of people as well. This is video gaming after all, and it’s Silicon Valley (as in really smack in the middle of it). Hell, the Computer History Museum was a few miles away.

It, and my later research, made me realize more people needed to pay attention to video games as history. We really take it for granted.  As far as I’m concerned this thing should be huge.


We started talking to the docent, also a founder, who’s video-game loving son had been her inspiration. This was a huge part of her life, and she’d poured a lot into it – including her son’s video game collection.  They apparently kept quite a bit – and she was a trained museum professional, so it worked perfectly.

She held us in rapt attention for over an hour.

It was amazing. This comparatively tiny place with a few exhibits seemed to grow huge as we heard stories and looked at displays, and took in tales of museum curation. Boxes of artifacts were opened just for us, odd game machines were shown off (including a Taiko Drum game), and little-known facts revealed.

Bustling around us were the staff, doing their job, diligently recording history. All while we pushed the place to maximum capacity.

It was a reminder size isn’t a huge measure of . .. well huge.

. . . WHO DO A LOT OF EVENTS . . .

So what do you do when you don’t have a lot of space? You hold events outside of it.

Turns out the DGM does events (they helped with an Atari Party we attended). They crack out the exhibits, get people to bring out their machines, and go to town. They call up speakers who’ve seen and made history. They make the museum mobile and a happening.

We later attended the Atari Party, and saw things I forgot existed. We heard about the invention of the Atari Trackball and the origin of the company (by the way, nothing’s changed in Silicon Valley in 40 years). It was all held at a library, and was the best museum exhibit held by a museum not at a museum I’d seen.

That’s how other small museums and displays and collections reach people. They get involved.


Si I saw this display of impressive geekery. And it was really humbling and amazing. THis is the stuff we talk about when we talk about hte passion of geek culture, the knowledge, the amazingness.

A small building of people who were retired or doing this recreationally working miracles and archiving our pasts. A tiny team making wonders happen at a library where kinds who never knew a world where Atari wasn’t an afterthought experienced it anew.

So I want to encourage you to get involved:

  • If you live in Silicon Valley, go donate time! Come on over. We might see you there.
  • Help them sponsor an event at your company or con or club.
  • If you can donate games or other artifacts, donate them. I was amazed at what they didn’t have, and am donating a large collection of old games.
  • You can adopt a game. Pay the annual fee to back storage of the game and help the museum.
  • You can send money. Hey, go for it.
  • Promote them like, I dunno, on a website.
  • Help promote them other ways.

This is a worthy cause.

In fact, I’ve noted other game museums above. If you’re a gamer, get involved like the above. Hey you don’t have to get involved in just one.


This was a massive display of Applied Geekery. This is the kind of things we geeks do.

So your next assignment, my fellow geeks? I challenge you to look for one geeky museum, newsletter repository, or something and make a contribution. Go on. Just one, be it cash or a donation or promotion.

It might become a habit.

Oh and if you’re not sure who to support, well you just got one of my votes . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.

Make It So: The Convention Repository

Awhile ago I interviewed Jeremy Brett and Lauren Schiller who were working on a fandom/filk archive. Of course I recommend you go back, read it if you haven’t, then donate a lot of stuff to them. Go on. I’ll wait.

OK, so welcome back. Anyway, I figured that the benefits of this geek archiving are obvious. But just to list them for the sake of completion:

  1. We do a lot of stuff as fans, geeks, otaku.
  2. This is part of our history, our cultural history, and indeed culture history period.
  3. We should really preserve it.
  4. Are you really going to do anything with that pile of ‘zines?

This, in turn, gave me an idea of for a Make It So . . .

Read more

Make It So: The World Archive

When I last posted about the Abandonment Archive, a place to leave fan works anonymously, I was focusing on fan works. But a few comments on “Recording your World” by newcomer Marek Tarnawski got me thinking that this basic idea of a “dumping ground” (in the good sense) should be expanded.  Let’s face it there’s probably a lot more things we should be saving with the power of the internet, easy technology, and fan power.

In this case, I’m realizing that we need an archive for abandoned, unused, and previously used worlds.

Many a gamer, writer, and so on has a few worlds in their back pockets. They have the game they never made, or the RPG campaign they haven’t played in fifteen years. There’s that Livejournal RPG that everyone loved but which then faded away, or the wiki that you set up and never used for your novel. There’s plenty of unused worlds out there.

People love good worlds. Settings are important, and though we love to build them, some are so intriguing we want to play with them.  Also sometimes we need new ideas.

So let’s put all those unused worlds to use.

The World Archive

Imagine a world archive for half-done, abandoned, previously used, or unused worlds. People could leave behind their creations for others to use, along with notes, historical documents, and contact information. This way their creations would live on and could inspire and be used for others.

The benefits I see are:

  • People are able to let their creations live on – and maybe even get comments on them and sync up with other enthusiasts.
  • Other people can get ideas or whole settings from the “donated worlds.”
  • Even if people don’t use a whole world, they’ll be able to use ideas (I suspect many people wouldn’t use entire worlds).
  • It would provide some interesting historical records of games, game systems, writing plans, and more.  Think of what these worldbuilding efforts say about the people and their times.
  • It may help remind people of past games and gaming systems – and would be great as a supplement to those beloved systems and what can be done with them.

The Methods To Get A World Archive

On the other hand this gets to be a bit challenging because people’s notes, worlds, and so forth are in a variety of formats. Some may be in a wiki, some may be a text document, others may be in a dead RPG system, etc.  Many are just on paper.  It’s not like it’s going to be straightforward.

I think the only way to do this is:

  • Have a basic upload system to just store raw files.
  • The upload system should have some basic viral scanning for the sake of sanity.
  • Over time get members to work out formats and conversion tools (that could make the site great for career skill development).
  • Post resources like character sheets and the like to help people convert information over – and post them on the site as well (anything to help out).
  • Accept uploads as JPGs so people can scan. If you can get any cheap OCR software or point people at things it’d be a godsend.

On top of a standard posting, credit, and combination system, it should be reasonably easy, as long as it’s allowed to evolve.

There would, however, need to be a pretty extensive search and classification system so people can mark their creations for easy access.  People amy search for game system, era, theme, etc.  Your tags are going to need to be extensive enough to classify things, and organized (and limited enough) to keep them from being overwhelming.

Likely there’d need to be feedback as well to catch misclassified works.  Some works may be tagged wrong, others may be falsely tagged, and there’s always the concern of people playing pranks.  A simple feedback system for review would probably be easy.

In time I see such project evolving – and probably sharing its formats and technology. A good wiki converter, a character sheet parsing macro, etc. would all be useful.

Of course there are challenges . .

The Challenges of The World Archive

There’s going to be a few challenges facing any ambitious archivists.  They’ll need to deal with:

  • Who owns what. Like the Abandonment Archive, it probably needs some way to do ownership checks.  A passive “alert us if this is inappropriate” system would probably work.
  • Stability. If a site like this gets lots of uploads and downloads It should be very carefully written for stability’s sake.
  • Backup.  Seems obvious, but seriously, this thing needs to be well backed up or the point quickly becomes moot.
  • Ensuring that entires are actually useful. There;s dumping grounds and dumping grounds, if you get my drift.
  • Updating. If it’s just a place to add things and it doesn’t adapt and grow, if new features aren’t added to make it easier to use, it could become useless. The site needs to evolve to meet people’s needs – which may not be apparent until running it.
  • Paying for it. Pretty obvious, though I imagine ad sales and such may work out, and there’s a chance for merchandise. It might work as part of a larger initiative or supported by certain companies (who get a nice promotional out of it).
  • Long-term existence. Something like this sound great but might peter out – it should probably have Death Of Site plans built in just in case.

Worlds For All

I think there’s potential here – if not on a large scale perhaps on a small scale for specific worlds, or settings, or types of game systems. It could even evolve as a series of specific sites coming together.  People would get a lot out of it – and it’d be fun.

It might even branch out into more world building resources and archives, collaborative works and the like.

Anyone feel up for it?

– Steven Savage