Video games, a “cultural heritage in its own right” in France

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Video games, a “cultural heritage in its own right” in France

The Hanimex 7771 is one of the old consoles preserved at the National Library of France.

The National Library of France (BnF ), in Paris, has around 20,000 preserved video game objects which it carefully preserves.

To access these treasures of the François-Mitterrand library, you must go to one of the four towers of 22 floors each, with the escort of a member of staff to go through the various security checks.

Amid gramophones and jukeboxes, two display cases house a dozen emblematic consoles from the history of video games, such as the Nintendo's famous Game Boy, the Atari Lynx, the Sega Saturn and above all the very rare Magnavox Odyssey, marketed in 1972 in the United States.

The Game Boy portable console went on sale in 1989.

We keep these consoles to give future researchers, in tens – even hundreds – of years, to understand how we could play these video games, what was the material used, explains to Agence France-Presse Laurent Duplouy, head of the multimedia service at the BnF department dedicated to this sector.

For the BnF, video games are as precious as other types of preserved documents. We pay the same attention to it; It is a cultural heritage in its own right, he adds. explained by the law on the legal deposit of multimedia documents in France, dating from 1992.

Although the text does not mention video games directly, it has included interactive software in this storage system and therefore, by extension, video game productions.

Each title or version of game must be deposited at the BnF in two copies: one for conservation and the other for consultation.

Counting on a team of 20 people dedicated to this mission, the BnF manages to collect 2000 documents of this type each year.

A few floors below, thousands of games are stored in the conservation galleries, plunged into darkness and protected from humidity.

A copy of the game “Tomb Raider II” (1997) belonging to the Charles Cros collection.

Repackaged in neutral boxes, each game has its rating to be indexed in the general catalog of the library.

From Adibou, the famous series of educational games, to the first From Tomb Raider – which brought the character of Lara Croft to fame – to the latest installments of Ubisoft Montreal's Assassin's Creed, every genre is represented, on every possible device.

Over the years, the physical formats of older video games degrade and technology evolves, making compatibility between these games and modern computers difficult.

This problem is circumvented by digitization analog games and emulators, this software developed in particular by communities of passionate people who allow people to play old games on recent computers, according to what Laurent Duplouy explains.

We have two engineers in the multimedia department who constantly monitor these issues to find emulators, make them work and put them in line with our collections, he says.

Another upcoming challenge for the BnF: the dematerialization of games, in particular with cloud gaming (cloud gaming in English), which is increasingly becoming a the dominant model, like Fortnite, accessible only online on a reserved platform and updated regularly.

The NES Zapper is an electronic gun, sold as an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

We are in negotiations with publishers and certain platforms to find a way to manage to recover games in legal deposit in their dematerialized form, says the manager, admitting the technical limits posed by this new model.

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