Beyond playable games: The role of the player in the writing of game history - a workshop on digital games in museums

In the last decade digital games have become part of our cultural heritage. Museums around the world are preserving and exhibiting games for current and future generations. To date, the focus has primarily been on material and tangible aspects of game preservation (Barwick et al. 2011), emulation (Van der Hoeven et al 2007), and in general a focus on the “original experience” of playing old games on original hardware (Lowood et al. 2009). Effort has been directed at preserving software and hardware, with almost no attention to the preservation of immaterial aspects (Winget 2011), i.e. the culture of gaming, from the perspective of stakeholders beyond the museum sector. The rise of games as the medium of player participation and creativity has further stressed that we need to extend preservation and exhibition efforts beyond physical artefacts. From critical heritage studies, we know that heritage is not neutral. As we choose how and what to save we create and shape the very past and present we intend to preserve (Lowenthal 2015; Smith, 2009). Thus it becomes crucial to aim for the preservation of the full breath of gaming culture including co-creation, political and cultural struggles, community organized events, competitions and e-sports, and the myriads of different streaming communities that constitute contemporary gaming.

To date, game studies as a research field lacks a systematic investigation of how to consider this wider range of aspects involved in assembling digital gaming culture in museums and as heritage in general. There is also a lack of perspectives from stakeholders outside traditional heritage institutions, such as users, industry, and community representatives. This workshop will contribute by gathering researchers at FDG to discuss these issues and suggest ways to move forward.

Call for participants: We encourage participants who want to present their relevant work at the start of the workshop to submit an abstract for review. This way you can participate in setting the agenda for the day and easier make connections with other participants. The workshop will be open for everyone at the conference to join. 

The abstract should be between 250 and 500 words and explain the authors’ scientific and/or design work in in this area. The deadline for the submission is the 25th of May and the final notification on presentation will be sent on 28th of May. Please submit your abstract to

The abstract should highlight the relevance of the submitted work to the topic and the aim of the workshop and will be used to facilitate the discussion. The aim is that participants will read each other’s abstracts so that we can use most of the time for discussion and group work. You can find the updated cfp here.

The workshop has three goals we want to achieve:

1.     Consolidate the field and formulate a research agenda for the future study of game preservation and exhibition. This will be concretized in the presentation of research and discussions during the workshop.

2.     Formulate best practice for the involvement of players in the definition of games as (material/immaterial) heritage in museums. The work towards this aim will be based on recent critical game studies research that has highlighted the importance and crucial role of players as participants.

3.     Decide on a plan to move forward in writing game history! Add perspectives and stakeholders that we are missing right now and point out how we can include them in the process. Stakeholders can include game developers, indie designers, industry, politicians, funders, and crucially also players, modders, e-sports professional, community leaders, and streamers etc. Then discuss how research, design, and policy work here should be advanced in the future (e.g. by shared publications, future events, a white paper)

Organizers: The organizers are Lina Eklund, Patrick Prax, and Björn Sjöblom.


Bartle 2012. Archaeology versus anthropology: What can truly be preserved? In Gaming environments and virtual worlds (92–97) Uni. Portsmouth.

Barwick, Dearnley & Muir 2011. Playing Games with Cultural Heritage: A Comparative Case Study Analysis of Current Status of Digital Game Preservation. Games and Culture 6(4):373–390.

Harrison 2013. Heritage: Critical Approaches. Routledge: London.

Lowood et al. 2009. Before it’s too late: preserving games across the industry/academia divide. In DiGRA 2009-Breaking New Ground Brunel University, London

O'Donnell, C. 2014. Developer's dilemma: The secret world of videogame creators. MIT Press.

Sicart, M. 2013. Beyond Choices. Cambridge, USA:  MIT Press.

Smith, L. 2009. Uses of heritage. Routledge: London.

Van der Hoeven, Lohman & Verdegem 2007. Emulation for Digital Preservation in Practice: The Results. International Journal of Digital Curation, 2(2):123–132.

Winget,M.A. 2011. Videogame preservation and massively multiplayer online role-playing games: A review. J.o.t. American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(10):1869–1883.