Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Game After

Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife

Raiford Guins
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 376
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Game After
    Book Description:

    We purchase video games to play them, not to save them. What happens to video games when they are out of date, broken, nonfunctional, or obsolete? Should a game be considered an "ex-game" if it exists only as emulation, as an artifact in museum displays, in an archival box, or at the bottom of a landfill? In Game After, Raiford Guins focuses on video games not as hermetically sealed within time capsules of the past but on their material remains: how and where video games persist in the present. Guins meticulously investigates the complex life cycles of video games, to show how their meanings, uses, and values shift in an afterlife of disposal, ruins and remains, museums, archives, and private collections.Guins looks closely at video games as museum objects, discussing the recontextualization of the Pong and Brown Box prototypes and engaging with curatorial and archival practices across a range of cultural institutions; aging coin-op arcade cabinets; the documentation role of game cartridge artwork and packaging; the journey of a game from flawed product to trash to memorialized relic, as seen in the history of Atari's infamousE.T. The Extra-Terrestrial; and conservation, restoration, and re-creation stories told by experts including Van Burnham, Gene Lewin, and Peter Takacs. The afterlife of video games -- whether behind glass in display cases or recreated as an iPad app -- offers a new way to explore the diverse topography of game history.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32017-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Don Ihde

    America, the land of technology, has many traditions that nostalgically celebrate past technologies. The biggest and loudest is probably NASCAR, which celebrates stock cars outfitted with outdated technologies. For example, overhead valve systems are forbidden, so when Toyota, an outlander, wanted to race, it had to redesign its engines to fit the older technology. Less organized but widespread is the love for Harley Davidson motorcycles’ noisy, bulky technologies probably better fitted to the often older and heavier riders who tout them.

    InGame After, Raiford Guins, who has founded a game studies collection at Stony Brook University, takes a very...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Persistent Games
    (pp. 1-30)

    I gently swipe my index finger across my iPad’s smooth “fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coated” screen surface to flick through a panoply of coin-op (coin-operated) arcade video games. Standing at full attention, embossed by a telltale blue shimmer to highlight the selectable arcade cabinet from its counterparts, the app,Atari’s Greatest Hits, stores information on eighteen coin-op cabinets and game programs for the Atari VCS complete with playable FOCAL (Flow-Optimized Code Analysis) emulation technology developed by Code Mystics Inc. for its cross-platform Prometheus engine. It translates, as Apple’s App Store announces, “the most popular retro games from the 70s and 80s” for...

  6. 1 Museified
    (pp. 31-74)

    The question “What are video games?” has received many dissections over the last decade. Alexander R. Galloway, for instance, defines video games as actions: “Let this be word one for video game theory. Without action, games remain only in the pages of an abstract rulebook. Without the active participation of players and machines, video games exist only as static computer code. Video games come into being when the machine is powered up and the software is executed; they exist when enacted.”¹ “Active participation,” “powered up,” and the process of coming “into being” can be associated with a claim Ihde makes...

  7. 2 Thinking Inside the (Archival) Box
    (pp. 75-106)

    An old story for a medium often celebrated as new. On April 24, 2011, theChronicle of Higher Educationfeatured a piece on the increasing inclusion of circulating game collections and gaming spaces in university libraries. Its author, Ben Wieder, canvassed a range of U.S. and Canadian universities that have either allocated existing space or benefited from new construction (and funding) to provide students and faculty with access to multiple gaming platforms within purpose-built facilities.¹ With all of the cutbacks to education during the Great Recession it is a reprieve, I feel, to actually read a story of a different...

  8. 3 After the Arcade
    (pp. 107-166)

    We see fewer and fewer coin-op arcade video games today. Writing at a time when the machines were fresh off the factory assembly line and still roamed the earth upright, Steve Bloom conveys the omnipresence of the new medium in his paranoid account of theSpace Invadersphenomenon of 1978–1979: “I saw them in my sleep. I heard that dull firing sound (something like a broken whistle) wherever I walked. When steam rattled through the pipes in my house, I could’ve sworn it was them.”² The shrill timbre of the machines swept the streets. Bloom continues: “Space Invaderswere...

  9. 4 Thinking Outside the (Game Cartridge) Box
    (pp. 167-206)

    ThePongprototype and the mysterious contents of a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico, as we will see in the next chapter, are not the only things that Atari has disposed of over the years. Between 1984 and 1985, as John Andersen details in his 2011 article forGamasutra, “Where Games Go to Sleep,” Atari Corporation¹ began conducting “office furniture clearance sales” to liquidate inventory while raising extra cash for a crashed industry. Cort Allen, of Pleasanton, CA, purchased nearly fifty filing cabinets at Atari’s fire sale. Each went for $2. Allen “hauled 350 pounds of wooden Atari filing cabinets...

  10. 5 Landfill Legend
    (pp. 207-236)

    In July 2009 I placed a short ad in theAlamogordo Daily Newsof southern New Mexico. I recall thinking to myself, “Who on earth is going to take this seriously,” when calling the newspaper. It read as follows:

    My name is Raiford Guins. I am a professor at Stony Brook University and I am currently writing a book on video game history. I would like to interview Alamogordo residents who remember the dumping of Atari game cartridges in the Alamogordo City Landfill in September 1983. If you are willing to participate in a brief interview please contact me via...

  11. 6 Game Saved
    (pp. 237-276)

    The frequent flyer miles are adding up, our journeys across the afterlife of video games grow increasingly immune to jetlag. We have traversed a range of museums with historical collections of video games: we examined the resocialization of functioning games and ex-games at ICHEG, CHM, and NMAH. We then stepped away from the museum display case and off the exhibit floor to work inside the archival box at the University of Texas at Austin, Stanford University, the Archives Center at NMAH, and found no-thing at Stony Brook University. We next set our compass to multiple bearings across the landscape of...

  12. Final Walkthrough
    (pp. 277-288)

    From a warehouse in Glendale, California, to a muggy ex-tidal basin we call our nation’s capital today, my journey through the afterlife of video games concludes here, just north of the National Mall at 8th and F streets. I confronted the summertime humidity of Washington, D.C., on July 21, 2012, raised a few degrees higher by touring families not acculturated to the bustle of pedestrian practices, to attend the “Art of Video Games” exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. At this destination I seize the opportunity to walk through both the temporary exhibition and the pages of this book,...

  13. Appendix
    (pp. 289-290)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 291-334)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 335-348)
  16. Index
    (pp. 349-356)