We purchase video games to play them, not to save them. What happens to video games when they are out of date, broken, nonfunctional, or obsolete? Should a game be considered an “ex-game” if it exists only as emulation, as an artifact in museum displays, in an archival box, or at the bottom of a landfill? In Game After, Raiford Guins focuses on video games not as hermetically sealed within time capsules of the past but on their material remains: how and where video games persist in the present. Guins meticulously investigates the complex life cycles of video games, to show how their meanings, uses, and values shift in an afterlife of disposal, ruins and remains, museums, archives, and private collections.
Guins looks closely at video games as museum objects, discussing the recontextualization of the Pong and Brown Box prototypes and engaging with curatorial and archival practices across a range of cultural institutions; aging coin-op arcade cabinets; the documentation role of game cartridge artwork and packaging; the journey of a game from flawed product to trash to memorialized relic, as seen in the history of Atari’s infamous E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial; and conservation, restoration, and re-creation stories told by experts including Van Burnham, Gene Lewin, and Peter Takacs.
The afterlife of video games—whether behind glass in display cases or recreated as an iPad app—offers a new way to explore the diverse topography of game history.
About the Author
Raiford Guins is Associate Professor of Culture and Technology at Stony Brook University. He is also founding principal editor of the Journal of Visual Culture and curator of the William A. Higinbotham Game Studies Collection.
“Throughout the book, Guins maintains both a lively, wry narrative of his quest for knowledge and a sharp, thorough grounding in game history, media theory, curation, and media archaeological practice. He has provided a theoretical framework, an excellent guide to the resources available in the United States, and several strong examples of what the material history of video games can accomplish.”—Thomas H. Rousse, American Journal of Play
"Raiford Guins takes readers on a romp through American memory as pixilated landscape of desire. Witty, learned, and not a little obsessive, Game After is an exploration of what video games mean to us in this, the era of collection, when antiquarians have become hipsters and hipsters antiquarians."
—Lisa Gitelman, author of Always Already New
"Game After is like no other game book you have ever read. Rather than being about the games themselves, it penetrates the materiality of game culture: the fates of "obsolete" arcade machines and consoles; the collections where they have ended; the events where they are resurrected. Excavating the legendary "Atari landfill" has not been neglected either. In Raiford Guins, electronic gaming has got its first true media archaeologist."
—Erkki Huhtamo, Professor at UCLA, Departments of Design Media Arts, and Film, Television, and Digital Media; author of Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles