The Download: Including Video Games In Your Genealogy - Part I

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Did your relative or ancestor love Super Mario Bros.? Were they always working on code for the next Half Life or Metal Gear Solid sequels? Did they learn with computer games at school? Adding digital hobbies, like video games, to your Genealogy can be a challenge. With physical hobbies, you have tangible objects that have been left by your ancestors. Afghan blankets, baseball bats and pieces of furniture all leave behind things that you can pick up and examine with your hands. Even books and written materials have the physical presence of being ink or graphite on paper. However, the challenge with video games and other digital assets is that they only exist in the virtual world. If you wanted to preserve that information for a future audience (your descendants), how would you do that?

The Download:  Including Video Games In Your Genealogy - Part I

Now, video games can be a lot of fun, but it is a serious topic. These digital tools can provide entertainment and education. They are a piece of our heritage. I remember when I was a kid in the early 1980s, I liked playing the game Big Bird’s Egg Catch. It was a video game from 1983 that helped teach me how to count with simple colors, controls, and animations. Some programmer took hours, days, and probably months putting together this game. That was probably somebody’s mother, father, aunt, uncle, or grandparent. The contributions of these designers and the experiences of those playing these games should be preserved for future generations. 

So, let’s first define what I mean by the term video game. When I am describing video games, I mean those games that have a screen or method of viewing virtually. There are some early electronic games that used basic LEDs and also games like pinball that I am not describing here. Most, although not all, of those other kinds of games have some form of physical presence, such as a pinball cabinet. What I am referring to are those games that started around the evolution of Atari’s Pong in 1972.

Moving forward through time; arcades, consoles, and most recently cell phones, have seen a generation of games that can be removed from their physical form. Take for example, Super Mario Bros., which came as an 8-bit cartridge for the Nintendo video game system; and yet this cartridge is not its actual physical form. This game has gone on to be ported to a number of other systems, but these are also not a physical artifact. Well, yes, the pieces of plastic and silicon are physical artifacts, but they don’t truly represent what your ancestor was doing with those games. In most cases, your ancestor was not picking up a cartridge and playing catch with it. (If they were, they were playing the game wrong)

These cartridges can be thought of as containers for the electrons stored as bits and bytes. When these are organized into a specific pattern, they form a program that is typically displayed as a series of images. The pictures are then animated and are interpreted by the human brain as a game. This stuff is what many people like to do in their free time. Some of them play it, some of them created, and some of them write esoteric reviews they get posted to Tumblr. 

There are a number of places where you can go to learn more about individual games and to see game credits. Obviously, the major search engines Google and Bing are good places to start. The Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) has been carrying information about major big budget games for several years now. Moby Games (www.mobygames.com) has a pretty extensive database and list of credits. A search on the old fashioned Wikipedia may also bring up some information and credits about a game.

If you want to add it to a family history, you should consider its relevance and the resources you have available to tactically capture this information. This post was getting too long, so I had to break it up. Like all good video games, the original will be followed-up with a sequel. This is the end of Part I of this post. Please visit PredecessorPro.com again next Monday 2/9/2014 for Part II. 

Interesting Links:
Big Bird Egg Catch:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soppeYiWv04

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