When I ask Frank Cifaldi, the founder and director of the Video Game History Foundation, to explain the importance of preserving and maintaining old video games, he answers with a movie analogy. Imagine, he said, “if movies were only released on, like, VHS, ever. You want to watch Back to the Future? All right, you have to go on eBay, and you have to find an antique VHS copy that’s degraded a bit from use. You have to find a VCR that works, a TV that it plugs into — or the external scalers that make it look correct on your modern TV — and you might need a time-base corrector because the magnetic flux signal is out of sync.”
For too many games, this is the state of the industry. For the most part, decades’ worth of games now exist only in their original form: on a disk or cartridge that goes into a console nobody has anymore. Many of those games are going to be hard for players to ever find again — and if we don’t do anything to save them, they might disappear altogether.