U. of Mich. video game cache serves as an archive, at play

U. of Mich. video game cache serves as an archive, at play

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The University of Michigan collects video games.

Lots of them.

The Ann Arbor university’s Computer and Video Game Archive features over 7,000 titles — everything from time-honouredfavourites 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 U.S. 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.”

It’s not all fun and games, however.

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.

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Online:

https://www.lib.umich.edu/computer-video-game-archive

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Follow Mike Householder on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mikehouseholder

Mike Householder, The Associated Press

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