What is Videogame Pavilion?
Videogame Pavilion is a digital archive of primary and secondary source material regarding both the hobby and industry of videogames. Through both basic scanning of these documents and preparation of modern web page design reproductions of the content this site plays a role in preserving videogame history.
Despite its young age, the videogame hobby and industry faces many of the same challenges as those preserving film and television. As a fan I am grateful for everyone who takes part in this archiving. From long-running High Score-keeper Twin Galaxies to modern web repositories such as The Arcade Museum every bit of information is valuable in documenting this dynamic form of media. Both the Internet and brick-and-mortar sources combine to give everyone a clearer picture of what videogaming is all about.
The process of archiving has been both positively and negatively affected by the digital age. With the advent of digital-only titles and games that require a server to run having a legitimate copy and a means to demonstrate it are in danger. But digital also means widespread dissemination of information and a way to make physical objects accessible to a wider audience.
Videogame Pavilion starts with gaming media. #GamerGate has shown that there is a lot of bad information out there about games as well as gamers, and that modern games media does not represent either the audience nor the content providers. By using old games media everyone can see what gaming is really all about—has been all about—from the very beginning.
The pages of the magazines are converted into primary components: articles and advertising. From there artwork, photos and screenshots included with the articles are separated. Once these elements are organized into web layouts, the web’s primary strength—linking—comes into play. Each article is scanned for mentions of games (and platforms with the caveat to come) which receive their own page. The same is does with advertising, artwork, photos and screenshots. The platforms mentioned are then tied to each game.
Once this initial process is complete each magazine issue receives summary pages covering different elements of the process. These can be used as jumping-off points if you have a particular interest such as artwork rather than going through each article. Similarly, you can use the site starting from the games and see all of the related magazines and elements grouped that way.
While many sites start with the games, Videogame Pavilion is committed to being a home for primary and secondary sources. All games mentioned in magazines will receive coverage regardless of release. Because the focus of this launch is on the magazines the game pages are solely sourced from material found within with a two exceptions: Frogger and Lock ‘N’ Chase. While these pages are far from complete they are representative of the type of material that will bolster the magazine information about a title.
Each game page features sections for screenshots, artwork, photos, advertising and articles from the magazines as a start. From there games can have releases, where physical representations of the games themselves are also archived. Taking the sample of Frogger you will see three items above, with the graphical objects linking to the “master” Frogger page, while the text links below take you to specific release pages. Following modern web design trends the master pages attempt to combine as much information into one location as a starting point for research. The release pages focus on primary sources such as game release packaging, manuals, catalogs and more.
Despite the focus on primary and secondary sources there is added value to be had by linking to additional digital information in the form of articles and videos. The over 800 games that are part of this launch all have links to MobyGames, Wikipedia and The Arcade Museum where available, while Frogger and Lock ‘N’ Chase add links to articles on other sites and videos available on YouTube. As the collection of magazines grows so will third-party links about the referenced titles, as well as more primary resources around game releases.
Screenshots are a great way to represent a videogame as a single frame of art. Thanks to video we can now preserve a game in a better way, but screenshots will always have a place. As a record of the state of a game changing from pre-release to release or simply an artist’s interpretation of a game before it comes to life images provoke memories in gamers.
Given the era of these magazines, the early 1980s, “screenshot” is a looser term than it is today. Many of these “screens” are artist rendering provided by the publishers. Others are photographs of television sets or arcade monitors.
A primary focus of the site will be advertising, preserving the way most gamers were introduced to titles outside of first seeing them on store shelves. Given the challenges of marketing in the digital age the ads found in these magazines, as well as television commercials to be covered in the future, serve as part of the history of the selling of videogames.
Mutli-page ads are merged at each fold point to recreate the experience of paging through the magazine. Links to all products are included in summary pages allowing multiple ways to navigate through them. Each is assigned a “campaign-permalink”, a way to organize the use of the same ad in multiple publications.
There is much more to do in regard to using advertising as a starting point for both research and nostalgia. A later launch article about the next steps in building the site will discuss some of these ideas.
Original artwork solicited by the magazines or provided by videogame publishers is separated and indexed. Where possible this artwork has been edited to remove overlay text to retain the original artist’s intent as well as remaining as is in the full page scans.
Like artwork photos are extracted and indexed and edited where appropriate. Many photos show regular videogame life and serve to document the hobby since its inception.
All of the above starts with the article. Videogame Pavilion allows you to browse through these magazines as if they were modern web sites. Another article deals with the process and technical details of the site and delves into the choices that were made in transitioning very different magazine layouts and style choices into a hopefully somewhat coherent standard for the site.
This is an alpha release of the site with perhaps forty percent of the intended features available in some form. What I’m looking for now is discussion of the site in its current state, reactions to my plans for the next phase, and eventually a working document to prepare a beta release. I hope you will find the time to read the upcoming post about the next steps and get involved in shaping the site.