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

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

So, as we had discussed last week in Part I, video games are a part of our history now. People in the future will want to know what it was like for people in this dawn of digital media. Some of us may have had parents or grandparents that already worked in this industry. Even the Boy Scouts have introduced a badge for Game Design, honoring this modern craft. How will all of their memories and contributions be preserved?


Before you dive head-first into the land of bleeps and bloops, stop and consider if this research makes sense. Would researching, sourcing, adding, and curating this video game information provide any additional context into your relative. If you think it may add additional depth for your descendants, perhaps it would be a good addition. However, if your ancestor’s connection to the video game world was tangential or flirting, it may not be a reasonable use of time to dig information up here. 

Information that you include in your family history should have a strong connection to a family member for some reason. Think about what makes this videogame relevant in the context of a family member. Was this a favorite hobby of theirs that they played consistently? Did they design the program, or create the artwork that is used within the game? Could this have been the MMO that they met their spouse on? These and many other questions you should consider before you decide to embark on adding the game information. Think about what makes this game important to the family in its entirety.

Resources and Tactically How You Will Capture

Think about the tools that you have on hand. It would be useful to have some form of camera, whether it is in your phone or an old-fashioned point and shoot set up on a tripod. You need some way of capturing the information as it is being played on one of its intended devices. If you have the option, you may be able to record video with one of your devices. You may also be able to record a feed off of the computer or console itself. What I might suggest, if your relative is still alive, is getting a picture of them actually playing the game, designing the game, or demonstrating their connection to said game. If their connection involves something that happened in the past and your relative is no longer available, perhaps you can get screenshots or speak with their friends to see if they have any additional pictures or information.

If you have a relative that created the game and you have access to the original code used to program the game, you may want to consider making a screen capture of a portion of that code, or creating a PDF of that code. You could print out that code if you wanted to, but keep in mind that sometimes that code could be thousands of pages long. If this game was a seminal work, or you’re afraid that the game could be lost to time, and you have the budget, and of course the room to store it, then by all means print it out. However, I suspect that a single page of code curated with some descriptive text providing relevance and context for that code would probably be sufficient for most genealogists.

In-game artwork could be tricky. If you are able to identify particular artwork within a game (if not the entire game) created by your relative or ancestor, you may be able to take a screen grab of that and save it for posterity. Often times with large video games there may be a team of 40 or 50 or 500 people working on an individual game. You may not be able to tell which part of the game your relative animated; unless of course they tell you. In that case, you may want to note their contribution but omit any pictures or screen grabs of the media in question.

Also, consider finding emulators that will allow you to play through these games. Emulators are tools that allow you to simulate a specific environment, which will play games intended for other platforms or systems. While in the game, search for a button or link that will provide you with the game’s credits. You may be able to find your ancestor’s name right there. At this point, you can get a screenshot or take a photograph of the screen. There are a few other ways to source game credits for the purposes of genealogy. You can look to see if there are any personal records that your ancestor might have had that would have clues:  Diaries, Invoices, Sketches, etc. You could also follow up by checking some of those links mentioned previously in Part I.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but always be mindful of the rules and regulations within your country and local governments. If there’s something that you should not be copying, don’t copy it and/or distribute it. I do not want to be held responsible if you managed to ask somehow get yourself in trouble

Stay tuned next week as we kick it analogue style. We will be talking about genealogy and The Handwritten Letter.

Interesting Links:
The Boy Scouts Merit Badge for Game Design:

Consider Purchasing: