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Video games, a “cultural heritage in its own right” in France


To access these treasures of the François-Mitterrand library, you have to go to one of the four towers of 22 floors each, with the escort of a staff member to go through the various security checks.

Amid gramophones and jukeboxes, two display cases house a dozen emblematic consoles from the history of video games, such as Nintendo’s famous Game Boy, the Atari Lynx, the Sega Saturn and above all the very rare Magnavox Odyssey, marketed in 1972 in the United States.

A game boy console.

The Game Boy handheld console went on sale in 1989.

Photo: afp via getty images / BERTRAND GUAY

– even hundreds– of years, to understand how we could play these video games, what was the hardware used”,”text”:”We keep these consoles to give to future researchers, in tens – even hundreds – of years, to understand how we could play these video games, what equipment was used”}}”>We keep these consoles to give future researchers, in tens – even hundreds – of years, to understand how we could play these video games, what was the hardware usedexplains to Agence France-Presse Laurent Duplouy, head of the multimedia service in the department of the BnF devoted to this sector.

For the BnF, the video game is as precious as the other types of preserved documents. We pay the same attention to it; it is a cultural heritage in its own righthe adds.

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30 years of conservation

Still fairly confidential missions of the BnF, the collection and preservation of the video game heritage are explained by the law on the Legal Deposit multimedia documents in France, dating from 1992.

Although the text does not directly mention video games, it has included interactive software in this conservation system and therefore, by extension, video game productions.

Each game title or version must be deposited at the BnF in two copies: one for preservation and the other for consultation.

Relying on a team of 20 people dedicated to this mission, the BnF manages to collect 2,000 documents of this type each year.

A few floors below, thousands of games are stored in the conservation galleries, plunged into darkness and protected from humidity.

A copy of the Tomb Raider game, pulled out by a hand from a ray from a tablet full of other video games.

A copy of the game “Tomb Raider II” (1997) belonging to the Charles Cros collection.

Photo: afp via getty images / BERTRAND GUAY

Repackaged in neutral boxes, each game has its rating to be indexed in the general catalog of the library.

From Adibou, the famous series of educational games, to the first Tomb Raider – which introduced the character of Lara Croft – to the latest episodes of Assassin’s Creed from Ubisoft Montreal, all genres are represented, on all possible devices.

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The challenges of preservation in 2022

Over the years, the physical formats of older video games degrade and technology evolves, making compatibility between these games and modern computers difficult.

This problem is circumvented by the digitization of analog games and emulators, this software developed in particular by communities of passionate people who allow people to play old games on recent computers, according to what Laurent Duplouy explains.

We have two engineers in the multimedia department who constantly monitor these issues to find emulators, make them work and match them with our collections.he says.

Another future challenge for the BnF: the dematerialization of games, in particular with cloud gaming (cloud gaming in English), which is becoming more and more the dominant model, like Fortniteaccessible only online on a reserved platform and updated regularly.

an electronic nes zapper gun placed on a table, near its casing.

The NES Zapper is an electronic gun, sold as an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Photo: afp via getty images / BERTRAND GUAY

We are in negotiations with publishers and certain platforms to find a way to recover games on legal deposit in their dematerialized form.says the manager, admitting the technical limits posed by this new model.

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