- Nearly 90% of classic video games are on the verge of extinction, according to a new study.
- Restrictive copyright laws and games disappearing from distribution mean some of them may never be played by future generations.
- As a millennial, I worry that a large part of my childhood will be lost forever.
My first video game console was the Game Boy, a portal to many hours of adventure and excitement.
I got it when I was nine. For every test I did well in school, my reward was a new game. I spent many evenings with my brother tied to it and immersed myself in colorful new worlds.
But today, much like other gadgets that have gone out of style, the Game Boy is a relic mostly kept by collectors and those with the know-how to care for it – a reflection of just how ephemeral video game culture has become feels.
For the first time, a July 10 joint study by the Video Game History Foundation and the Software Preservation Network backs up this sentiment: Approximately 87% of video games released in the US before 2010 are “endangered.”
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The Game Boy’s days are limited
According to the report, games released on the Game Boy or the historic Commodore 64 are particularly at risk. The study was conducted by checking the availability of 1,500 randomly selected video games released before 2010 on all console and PC types.
The reason for this doomsday prediction is that games don’t stay on store shelves forever and are constantly disappearing from commercial distribution. According to the study, only the most popular games – like Pokemon or Sonic – will be re-released.
Copyright laws also prevent cultural institutions like libraries from preserving and sharing games in the same way they do books and films, the report said.
That means many classic games – like Metal Gear or Unreal Tournament – are now inaccessible.
The study’s author says the availability of these classic video games is even worse than the survival rate of silent films.
I say goodbye to my thousand-year childhood
The video game industry is larger than the film and music industries, the Federal Trade Commission said in a report last year. Video games will generate $170 billion worldwide in 2022. According to the July report, the industry is valued at $180 billion today.
And even though video games grossed more than five times the world’s gross revenue last year, they’re still treated as a class of their own under copyright law — without the exceptions we need to preserve them.
While much of the video game industry is in jeopardy, it feels like an important part of my millennial childhood may be gone forever.
The next video game copyright debate is scheduled for 2024, and the clock is ticking. Our cultural gaming history is too valuable to let 87% of it disappear.
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