Video game archives on display downtown
If you’re ever in dire need of Pokémon-themed fish sausage, the Learning Games Initiative Research Archive has you covered.
Peculiar items such as these will be displayed at a free show-and-tell event today at 6 p.m. at Playground Bar and Lounge downtown.
The video game archive was founded on the UA campus in 1999 by Ken McAllister, a professor in the UA English department, and Judd Ruggill. Their collection has more than 20,000 different games and more than 250,000 items total.
They have everything a gamer could ever desire, from “Donkey Kong” Jungle Juice to Xbox boxer shorts.
“We get things in all kinds of ways,” McAllister said. When not rummaging through nearby garage sales and thrift stores, McAllister said that they also add to their collection through generous donations from all over the world.
Japan and Turkey are just a few of the countries the products in the archive come from. McAllister said that the video games they receive from foreign countries help to communicate the cultural climate of the place where they originated.
Many items in the archive are the personal creations of obsessed gamers. A “Pong” machine built into an Altoids can and other unique homemade game consoles fill up a special section of the archive.
The archive is tucked away in the Transitional Office Building on the far east side of campus. Since its launch 15 years ago, the Learning Games Initiative has expanded to include multiple branch archives in states such as Utah, Wyoming and Alabama.
McAllister said that the archive receives multiple requests from researchers in the growing game studies field. Scholars come seeking items that can be analyzed for their cultural representations of race, gender and class.
“[Game studies] is a set of cultures and industries that have had global impacts,” McAllister said.
According to a 2011 report from the Entertainment Software Association, 72 percent of Americans regularly play video/computer games, an increase of 5 percent from the previous year.
“Video games are becoming more pervasive,” said Heather Wodrich, the community engagement coordinator for the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry. “They’re finding their way in to every aspect of our culture.”
The Confluencenter plans to make this event a monthly series for the UA community. Wodrich said that the center’s mission is to share information with all departments of the university, and she hopes tonight’s event will showcase the uniqueness of the archive.