chapter  3
37 Pages

OLD GAMES

Of course, old games do not simply vanish. Even in the light of their apparently selfevident obsolescence and replacement in the marketplace by technologically superior successors, sequels or updated, improved remakes, old games and old systems linger on. As Moore (2009) notes, ‘many users will persist for years, gradually upgrading and delaying obsolescence and even perpetuate the circulation of older cultural commodities’. Some continue to be used, perhaps alongside or perhaps instead of the new. We should be clear that these are not necessarily acts of overt resistance but a result of practicality and household provisioning. New hardware, new software, new peripherals, whether desirable or desired, remain costly items and the investment of both time and money in old systems may make them hard to simply discard. As we have seen, differing but typically patchy approaches to backwards compat-

ibility mean that libraries of games, as well as additional hardware such as controllers and memory cards, make the decision to shift from one platform to another, even an updated iteration of the same platform, an extensive and expensive proposition. As such, while we should recall Sterne’s comments on the way that the ‘halfwayness’ of technology makes it potentially easy to reject, as it either does not work or has deteriorated over time, becoming troublesome and unreliable, we should be mindful also of his assertion that it is the cost of computing that frequently drives its longevity: ‘the memory of dropping well over $1,000 (and probably considerably more) still lingers’ (Sterne 2007: 25). Considered in this light, it is understandable that the initial launch price of the PS3 console, clocking in at in excess of £400 (sans game and with a single joypad), as well as the ongoing investment in software and peripherals, should continue to prove significant and persuasive even in the face of subsequent technologically advanced console releases. However, Sterne also interestingly points to the way in which the memory of expenditure may potentially create a strong desire to

retain costly technological devices even after they cease to be useful, or at least after they remain in constant use. Moving them into marginal spaces such as garages, basements and lofts, where they are stored in the belief that they must still retain some value, they exist in a kind of hinterland, neither exactly wanted nor unwanted. For archivists, the importance of this simple fact is difficult to overstate:

when a newer system (e.g., PlayStation 3) supersedes an older one (e.g., Atari 2600), the older one will often sit like a fact in benighted spaces such as attics, thrift stores, garages, and closets – all prime hunting grounds for computer game collectors. The ephemera that for most people drift toward oblivion get picked up by archivists and cleaned off, catalogued, stored, studied, used, and reused. Trash becomes treasure, obsolescence newness and utility.