But I have a take on that – people only made money out of records for a very, very small time. When The Rolling Stones started out, we didn't make any money out of records because record companies wouldn't pay you! They didn't pay anyone!
Then, there was a small period from 1970 to 1997, where people did get paid, and they got paid very handsomely and everyone made money. But now that period has gone.
So if you look at the history of recorded music from 1900 to now, there was a 25 year period where artists did very well, but the rest of the time they didn't.
Video games have become immensely important bits of pop culture. From serving as pieces to larger transmedia puzzles, to referencing pop culture, to being referenced in pop culture, even my wife would have trouble downplaying their importance. But just in case YOUR wife tries to downplay the importance of games, check this out:
According to cnet, In the first five days of availability, Modern Warfare 2 eclipsed the largest worldwide box-office opening, previously held by "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," which tallied $394 million over its first five days. It also beat "The Dark Knight," which holds the U.S. box-office record with $203.8 million in first five-day sales.
So it stands to reason that games are important cultural artifacts, and as such, they should probably be preserved for posterity. The trouble is that games are hardware dependent, so it's difficult to preserve them for the ages in any kind of useful form. But it's even more complex than just solving the technology problem, because the poor bastard who takes this on must attempt to navigate the strange and terrible backchannels of IP law.
Luckily, the University of Illinois has recognized the importance of games and is working out the incredibly complex issues that are involved. The Opposable Thumbs blog sat down to interview the project's coordinator to learn more:
Ars: How will these games be preserved?
JM: Really good question! And I can't say we're completely certain of all the answer at this point. But we're looking at whether some of the models that have been developed within the digital preservation community for dealing with more static forms of data can be applied to software. And what we're finding is that they can be. But if you're going to apply those models, you really have to be very proactive in the materials that you collect.
Take, for example, Star Raiders on the Atari 2600. If you're going to preserve this, you've got a couple of problems. The first is that it is on a cartridge that is designed to work on a particular system that is no longer manufactured. And as long as you've got a hardware dependency there, you're really not going to be able to preserve this material very long. What we have been looking at is how feasible is it for things that fundamentally all have some level of hardware dependency there—even Doom has dependencies on DLLs with an operating system, and on particular chipsets and architectures for playing. How do you take that and turn it into something that isn't as dependent on a particular physical piece of hardware.
And to do that, you need information about that platform. You need technical specifications that allow you to basically reproduce a virtualization that may enable you to run the software in its original form in the future. So what we're trying to do is preserve not only the games, but preserve the knowledge that you would need to create a virtualization platform to play the game.
Ars: Any chance people will eventually be able to go and play these old games online?
JM: Sad to say, probably not, at least not through us. One of the other issues that we have been looking at in this project are issues of copyright. What can we do legally under existing law, including the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. What actions can we take? What can we not take? Everything we're doing is within the bounds of the law, but some of what we're doing may involve negotiations with companies in which we say, "We don't want to ruin the potential market for your game, we just want to preserve it. So will you allow us to make preservation copies of this material if we dark archive it and don't make it publicly available?"
So early games like Spacewar! and Adventure that were actually published prior to changes in copyright law in 1976 and were published without a copyright notice were basically entered into the public domain at that point. There are other games, like Mystery House, that the creators actually made freely available over the Internet. So some of the materials we can make available publicly, other of the materials we can't.
One of our biggest issues for copyright has been Second Life, because everyone who creates something onSecond Life retains copyright over their creation, which means that if I want to make a copy of a Second Life island, I have to contact every rightsholder on the island and ask them for permission to copy their particular stuff.
Obviously the technology is amazing. As I was watching, it made me wonder if what they've developed isn't as much of an entertainment technology as it is the foundation of the future of computing … sort of the Star Trek model of computers. Computers that you talk with as if they are people. Maybe this is what leads down the road to HAL 9000?