Wednesday, 17 December 2008

BBC NEWS | Technology | Writing the history of virtual worlds

BBC NEWS | Technology | Writing the history of virtual worlds

Next time you cut down a monster in an online game or punch a supervillain into the next county remember that your actions are helping to write the history of a new world.

To ensure that the big and small events in these fledgling worlds are not forgotten, erased or overlooked, the University of Texas, Austin has kicked off a project to study the best way to preserve their history.

"It's a huge challenge for archivists to deal with digital information," said project co-ordinator Professor Megan Winget from the School of Information at the university.

Prof Winget's interest in preserving massively multi-player games grew from her involvement in digital artworks that do not hang on a wall but invite interaction, and change as a result.

"One of the most interesting problems for digital preservation is interactivity and how difficult that is to preserve," she said.

"Video games offer all of the same problems as digital art," she said. "They are interactive, very complex and a lot of people get involved in making them happen."

Oral history

The game preservation project aims to interview game makers to tease out the process of creating a game and the materials, such as sketches, doodles and early code, involved in bringing one to life. The experiences of people who play the beta, or trial, versions would be useful as their feedback often shapes the final game.

The insights from the interviews will help the project define how to go about preserving such malleable media, said Prof Winget.
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