Sometimes Preserving Video Game History Requires Partnering With the Enemy

The Video Game History Foundation, a nonprofit focused on video game preservation co-founded by former games journalist Frank Cifaldi, recently shared it had spent the last year or so working with Wata Games, a company that evaluates the quality and authenticity of games for collection and sale, to document every video game prototype that’s submitted for its services. 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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I still feel like this is reputation laundering for Wata Games. The Karl Jobst video is damning:

For Wata it’s definitely a reputation repairing scheme. But at the end of the day I find it hard to criticise Cifaldi for his part in it. The options are

  1. These items go into private collections forever and are never documented or preserved beyond that, unless someone like Cifaldi spends a ton of money.
  2. This solution, where Cifaldi gets to preserve them when they pass through Wata, rather than them be lost to time forever.

In an ideal world it’d also come with the ROMs being dumped for everyone to see but that’s not an actual option here.


Yep. Video games are just now catching up to the art and antiquities world has been for decades in terms of price fixing, self-dealing, and money laundering. Yet almost every art museum works with auction houses and private collector for the simple reason that it’s better for those works to be publicly accessible than stashed in an unmarked warehouse in Rotterdam.


Yeah, it’s really hard for me to harbor any resentment for Cifaldi when this is essentially the only way these objects are distributed under capitalism. Everything else is an exception. I would obviously prefer it happened another way, but what we’ve got currently is a network of collectors and auctions. The best we can hope for is that these things end up in the hands of decent people who are willing to work to share and archive these things.

I don’t follow the preservation scene super closely (which I should, honestly), but I feel like sometimes people, and I’m specifically referring to those Twitter quotes, have the expectation that archival just happen. But the forces which influence these processes and make them worse exist well outside the archivists domain. It takes time and resources to do this stuff and those are withheld by the market. If you’re going to complain about it, you have to make sure you’re targetting the right problem and not the people who are just making do with the situation.