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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Rodriguez

Game Preservation: The Dangerous State of Physical Media

retro game collection

Game & Film Preservation: How We Could Lose So Much More

Ever since I can remember, I've been an art nerd. I've been someone that can appreciate the time, effort, and sacrifice it takes to create something out of nothing. There is something special about having the tiniest thought or idea and eventually transforming it into something special in the physical world.

That's probably why, when I decided to pursue a career in Graphic Design, I gravitated towards print and package design over web or digital-based design. The rush of satisfaction you get when you hold something in your own hands that you created (or even found and bought) is something truly special and cannot be replaced.

That is why my heart absolutely breaks for the current state of the world when it comes to physical media and art. With the rapid advancement in technology over the last 2 decades, our world was already heading in the current direction. However, thanks to events such as the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which accelerated things tremendously, companies began prioritizing at-home, digital-based services. Streaming services grew, online shopping blossomed, meetings were done over Zoom calls and more.

In my opinion, this has only caused mankind (especially the younger generations) to grow ever more entitled and truly struggle when it comes to putting in hard work and delaying gratification. Now, you could argue that the world is becoming more efficient and that's a plus. I also want to state that this article isn't about taking shots at particular demographics. This is about the very real reality we currently are in and where we are heading if we don't pay attention while moving with intention.

Here are some alarming statistics for you:

  • In 2022, 55% of adults surveyed said they prefer watching movies at home vs. going to the theater with only 37% of the total vote going towards theater preference.

  • In 2022, 89.5% of all video game sales came from digital download.

  • Starting in 2024, Best Buy, one of the world's largest media retailers will cease to carry physical media (movies and tv).

  • During the Q3 FY22 period, Sony made nearly $8.8 billion from its PlayStation gaming ecosystem.

The common reason behind all of this stems from convenance. It is simply faster and more efficient (and sometimes cheaper) to download a game straight to your preferred gaming platform vs. physically driving to the store, dealing with potentially rude staff or shoppers, downloading the data to your device (which you have to do anyways since games are so large now), then having to make sure your kids don't lose/misplace/destroy said piece of media (I'm not speaking from experience or anything 😭). It's just EASIER!

Let me provide a different perspective though. A perspective I didn't always have. Not too long ago, I honestly didn't worry too much about the whole media preservation discussion. Inside the gaming industry I've been hearing the rumblings from game preservationists that we need to encourage physical media purchases because it is possible to lose media forever if we aren't careful. But, I never took these discussions seriously. I was very much in the camp of, "this is just where the world is heading towards. It's inevitable."

However, my mind began to change over time. It started with me learning from said preservationists that particular video game magazine editions couldn't be found anymore. Then I heard from a game developer that he lost the only copy of the original source code of his game he programmed decades ago and was begging people to try to find an original copy. Combine this with various gaming publishers shutting down their e-stores that carried older titles and I'll be honest, I started rethinking my stance of things.

The big shift came after watching Chris Stuckmann's YouTube video called, "The Future of Film." In this short video, Chris, a filmmaker himself, explains the potential dangers of lost media. As a designer, what resonated with me the most was when he stated - (paraphrasing) "Imagine you work so hard on something that means everything to you. You spend years writing a script, gathering the budget, filming, post-production, pre-screenings, etc. only to be told your work will never release because a corporate head wants a tax write-off."

You add in the fact that the Netflix distribution license for amazing films such as Hush, a thriller everyone should watch, expired, and physical copies of that film were never released so the only way to watch this brilliant film (as of this writing) is via illegal methods. This goes to show, if something physically is never created, copied and shared around the world, we run the risk of losing that piece of media forever. To play devil's advocate, this is incredibly unlikely but we are beginning to see real examples of this happening to smaller pieces of media such as magazines, retro games and now feature films. How would YOU feel if something you worked on, something that was a huge accomplishment in your career, disappeared forever?

Where I get the most frustrated is when these discussions are happening and someone chimes in with the ol', "this is just where the world is going" statement. As I said earlier, I use to say this as well. But the reality is, the only reason our world is heading this way is because we are allowing it to happen. We are telling these media distributors that this is okay since we are voting with our dollars. The gaming industry is recording record profits despite thousands of layoffs occurring just this year. The prices of games have gone up despite corporations such as Sony and Microsoft being able to save on manufacturing and distribution by selling media directly to the consumer without the middle-man (Walmart, Gamestop, Target, etc).

Lets just imagine for a second what would happen if Gamestop shut down, a store that most content creators like to hate on (not that it's not deserved sometimes). Jobs would be lost first off. Second, remember those memories you have of the midnight game launches and just having a hub of fellow gamers to chill with? Yep, that's gone too. (Insert critic that says, "well nobody is going to midnight launches anymore anyways." My response would be, yeah, that's the problem. They aren't doing them because we aren't demanding them).

That amazing dopamine rush you get when searching for that newest game or console only to eventually find it and purchase it...yep, bye bye. Need I remind everyone, Blockbuster gathered similar responses when it closed it's retail doors over a decade ago. Now, literally everyone I talk to wishes it would return. I wonder why that is? Maybe it's because we all secretly long for that habitual activity and interaction with others with similar interests?

We simply do not appreciate what we have until it's gone.

We must pay great attention to the way we purchase and preserve media and various pieces of art. Remember, we have a say in where the entertainment industry goes. We control the success of theaters and physical media based upon what we spend our money on. Instead of buying a bunch of items online, make it a fun gathering with family or friends to head out to the local comic book store and have that be a pitstop on your weekend errand run. I'm not suggesting to spend tons of money in-stores, especially during the current state of the economy, but I am suggesting to be intentional with our actions. If we aren't, we run the risk of losing much more than just physical media.

If you've gotten this far, thank you so much for reading and I hope you got something out of it. Please be sure to drop a comment and let me know your thoughts.

God Bless,

Taz 💥



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