Game History Annual Symposium 2016


One of the outcomes of the project is the collaboration between myself and Carl Theirren at the University of Montreal, co-founder of the Game History Annual Symposium.

Carl and I have co-organised the 2016 edition of the symposium titled: Preserving, Prolonging and Remixing Play to be held in Montreal between the 28th and 30th June 2016.

The symposium has a range of international keynote speakers from academia and the cultural industries. These speakers are, James Newman (Bath Spa University, UK), Iain Simons (National Videogame Arcade, UK), Lori Emerson (Director of the Media Archaeology Lab, University of Colorado at Boulder, U.S.A), Sean Tudor (Canada Science and Technology Museum), and Slyvain Savard, Stephanie Blais and Guiz de Pessemier from Outerminds (creators of PewdiePie: Legend of the Brofist).

As well as the talks during the symposium, there will also be a retro-game cocktail event for speakers, allowing for the chance to network and unwind on the second day of the event.

During our planning for the event, Carl and I also decided to have three slightly shorter days, starting at 1pm, finishing at 6pm to allow for further conversation between participants during the event, and explore Montreal during its summer festival season.

Some of the funds from the fellowship have allowed us to organise keynote travel, and rooms to host the symposium at UQAM in Montreal. We have also been able to waiver the fee for student participation, and allow non-panel speakers the opporunity to come to all days of the symposium free of charge.

The program for the conference can be found here:

This is the original Call for Papers:

‘Let video games die’; in his 2012 contribution /Best Before/, James
Newman doesn’t hide his pessimism about the preservation of video games.
This controversial statement seems to clash with the acceleration of
preservation efforts emerging around the globe. Dedicated hobbyist
communities strive to archive complete ROM sets for every possible
platform. The /Internet archive/ has brought many classic Arcade and DOS
games to the masses thanks to in-browser emulation. At the beginning of
2015, UC Santa Cruz and Stanford experts published ‘A Unified Approach
to Preserving Cultural Software Objects and their Development
Histories’. In Australia and all over Europe, more efforts are being
channeled to unearth local game histories; some of these stories have
already found their way to a major historical account (Video Games
Around the World, 2015). In many countries, museums and cultural
institutions have developed games archives and offer a place for people
to experience older platforms.

While solutions emerge from a growing number of bastions around the
world, the material and legal challenges that feed Newman’s pessimism
are only getting more intricate with time. Is it realistic to rely on
the hobbyist emulation community to tackle the complexity of current
systems? The rise of retro-monetization has created an incentive for the
industry to emulate its own legacy, but this interest from stakeholders
means that more efforts are dedicated to shutting down abandonware sites
and control the circulation of classic titles. The situation is so
delicate that even recent titles can be a challenge to remarket
officially. In February 2015, Night Dive studios announced that they
had abandoned their project to bring /No One Lives Forever/ “ a game
that is only 15 years old “ on GOG or Steam; lawyers were unable to
untangle the legal situation. More recently, the /Entertainment
Software Association/ went so far as to lobby against exemptions to
copyright laws that are sought for museums and other preservation

In spite of decaying materiality and legal uncertainty, many
practitioners and researchers are drawn to older game systems and
technologies in order to stimulate their creative process. Media
archaeology labs such as the one at the University of Colorado (Boulder)
not only offer the experience of a time gone by for these creators; they
open up the possibility to extend or remix content for new audiences.
Hardware hacking or what Hertz and Parikka (2012) define as “zombie
media” allows for hardware and software to be reinterpreted, repurposed
and replayed. Moreover, fans and hobbyists continue to make new game
content for machines once thought to be obsolete, and actively encourage
game jams dedicated to older platforms. For instance, the annual Speccy
Jam invites veteran and younger game creators to explore the potential
of the ZX Spectrum (

The 2016 edition of the symposium seeks to document and engage with the
various practices that strive to bring vintage experiences of play into
the future. We invite submissions that explore the questions laid out in
one or many of these three tracks:

*Track 1: Preserving Play*

How is play currently preserved and/or archived? What is the role of
museums and libraries in preserving play? What is the role of private
collectors and fans in preserving play both on and offline? Who has
access to these archives? How important is the materiality of the object
in preserving play? What challenges do cultural institutions face in
preserving play? What are the legal challenges of preserving play? How
do all these aspects differ in local contexts?

*Track 2: Prolonging Play*

How do we exhibit histories of games? Where are these exhibitions being
held and for what audiences? What role does emulation play in allowing
players and/or researchers to extend game histories? What is the role of
the media archaeology lab in extending the legacies of game hardware and
software and/or creating new ones? How are retrogaming communities
extending play? Why are games still being produced for ‘obsolete’
platforms? Who are the communities of people still interested in
developing for older platforms and who are the people interested in
playing them?

*Track 3: Remixing Play*

How is older hardware being modified to create new or “zombie” media?
What is the role of art games in remixing game histories? How can we
understand retro aesthetics within current game design practices and/or
within a timeline of the history of games? Do games such as /Mario
Maker/ contribute to our understanding of game history? How can we
discuss modifications, clones and remakes in the context of game
history? Is new hardware or software created for obsolete platforms seen
as remixing game histories or do they represent an extension of older