This archive — my archive — is not something anyone could have found in any one place. Rather, it is what I assembled through years of digging, hearing rumors of things and then working to find those things, or being handed things by librarians and archivists who thought maybe this thing they knew about might be useful.
This past summer, as I was working to finalize my manuscript, I had the opportunity to go to the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, NY (thanks in no small part to an archive-sponsored research fellowship). The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play is — I am not exaggerating — a magical place. It is a conventional archive, in that you sit in a very cold room, and you write only in pencil, and helpful people (very helpful people!) bring you things from somewhere in the back in boxes. But, it is an amazing archive for what they have. The things brought from the back included early Atari promotional materials, trade journals (still rich with stale smoke) I hadn’t been able to find anywhere else, catalogs, posters, promotional photographs and company newsletters and magazines I’d never heard of. There were so many trade journals they necessitated a rolling cart. I spent two weeks going through them in detail, building another pile of Xeroces, this one so massive that I had to buy an extra carry-on bag for my flight back to Chicago. There were also the things that couldn’t be rolled out. At one point, I was led to one of the archive’s working rooms, filled to the brim with electronic games, to look at a Death Race cabinet that was in the middle of restoration.
A snippet from a researcher who is working to seek insights from game history, and one of the archives where conservation is happening.
(via full_Ortiz_0315_0.jpg 465×576 pixels) Native American Futurism by Virgil Ortiz, on display at the Denver Art Museum.
*Cardboard everything for your bleak, favela-chic retrofitted loft.
1 x Chair
1 x Desk
1 x Garbage / Recycling Bin
1 x Bed (8 x Stax with 4 x Connectors, Mattress not included)
1 x Dresser (4 x Stax that can re-configured in an infinite amount of ways)
1 x Room in a Box…Box (with wheels and handles for ease of transport)
We call it the 30 Minute Move. As you would guess, that is how long it takes to completely furnish your space, or even less if you’re especially dexterous.
His existing dilemma is one that is rarely discussed: when do artists cut their losses and abandon their careers? He has to cart around a boxful of unsold albums, and notes with grim blankness that his folk contemporary Al Cody (played by the excellent Adam Driver) has an exactly similar box. The cultural industry might lead you to assume that these albums are wonderfully precious and unique things, emblems of achievement: but from an unsuccessful insider’s view, these unwanted consumer items represent an abyss of failure much deeper than the disappointments of normal life.
For the last eight months we’ve been working the brilliant Ivan Poupyrev and team at Google ATAP to help design interactions, products and visualisations with their newly announced micro-scale radar technology.
Here’s the film we made about the project:
AS: One of the things that has been really exciting about being here at IDEO is that people really engage with a set of possibilities if you open them up. There is an inherent personality type that says Okay, give me some constraints, give me an imaginative impetus, and I will come up with something radically different. I don’t need to stay in continuity with what people have said before, the weirder it is the better. When we look at sustainability, when we look at economic development, urbanization, the set of interrelated issues, the amount of change that we face is so non-linear, it’s so discontinuous from our 20th Century expectations, that I really think the only people who can fully engage with what’s needed are people who can make an intuitive leap into this other world and what does it feel like.
TB: Design requires that leap of faith. It’s a bit like how explorers used to head off across the ocean confident that there was something interesting there, but not knowing what it was. They have the self-confidence to just get up and go.
There is some mythologizing here.
My friend Max asked me why there’s no annual publication of the best games journalism. This is why: none of us care about our history.
I have friends who have been working for many years on many different aspects of game preservation and game conservation. They are upset that this well intended author did not seem to do the work to find out about their efforts. Instead the author worked from an apparent surface understanding. That conservation efforts are not readily known may be a failing of these self-same friends, bookish academics as well as fervent fans of the games they hope to conserve. Conservation of ephemeral popular culture is itself a fraught field. Visual and Material Culture Studies may only be as old as Videogames. What happens, then, when what one wants to conserve is immaterial by definition? What — and how —does one conserve of the pattern of electrical charges on a microscopic substrate?
<blockquote>A unique handmade full-size coin-op arcade cabinet for two players, inspired by old industrial cabinets, vintage mixing consoles and early space travels. The retro futuristic body stands on four unique rocket nozzle like feet. These can be removed or replaced. The cabinet is decorated by a glowing planetarium on the front and an engraved saturn speaker grill. The folding top keep dust away when not in use.
The Pixelkabinett 42 comes in a numbered limited edition of 50. These made-to-order cabinets can be customized in many ways to suit any customer needs. </blockquote>
Arcade cabinet as modernist home furnishing.