Attending to Process and Data
A Research Alignment for Historical Videogame Production Artifacts and Their Archives
Kaltman, E., ROMChip: a journal of game histories 2 2 (2020).
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Access to production records is a significant impediment to the historical investigation of video games and interactive entertainment. Due to market considerations, including non-disclosure agreements and trade secrets, the physical and — now primarily — born-digital artifacts of game production processes are unavailable to historians. However, even if large collections of production records and data suddenly became available, would we be equipped to deal with their variety, scale, and scope? Drawing from a diverse set of fields, including studio studies, the history of technology, and archival science, this article attempts a research alignment that will help anticipate the use and interpretation of historical video game production. Games, as software objects, have embedded within them the world models and tacit assumptions of their creators. Sifting through production records is one potential way to gain an understanding of why certain design decisions were made and how aspects of creation were negotiated among various stakeholders. Examining process can also provide insight into the contributions of individual developers and highlight their often-unacknowledged work on things like development pipelines and project management. Since production is usually a messy process, the organization of records and their inherent dependencies on production software make the records recovery and representation difficult. The article concludes with two case studies that examine these recovery and dependency issues; and further, draws a critical connection between our understanding of video game production history and its dependency on ever fragile — and ever growing — archives of production data.


Eric Kaltman. 2020. Attending to Process and Data: A Research Alignment for Historical Videogame Production Artifacts and Their Archives. ROMChip: a journal of game histories. Volume 2, Issue 2. December 2020.