The Deadplay Project

Videogame history is in an interesting place. Much of videogaming’s heritage is rapidly disappearing and until recently most of the literature on videogame history was not critical nor analytical. In the last decade, scholars of the past have stated to pay greater attention to the medium, but there is still much to do and without ensuring games are accessible for future generations, their task will be much more difficult.

Videogames, especially old ones, can and will die. Would it be because the media they are stored on or their hardware degrades, old console breaking down, or companies pulling the plug on servers; videogames die. But what does that mean? When a game dies, it means that there is no longer a functional, original version. However, there might be still be ports, re-releases, or emulations somewhere. Maybe there’s even Let’s Plays or some video footage online. There might also be some old marketing material lying around. These are all examples of things that can be used to reanimate a dead game and, in a way, turn it into a “zombie”. Even if a game can still be played in its “undead” state, it can only be experienced through what this project calls “deadplay” (i.e. playing or experiencing dead or zombie games).

Still, preserving games is only half the battle. In past 10 years, there has been growing momentum for the study of videogaming’s history. Before that, the history of the medium was dominated by journalistic accounts, industry talking points, and linear interpretations of that history. Very few historians dedicated their research to videogames, and most of those who did typically analysed how history was portrayed in games. Game scholars sometimes explored the topic, but their practice was not rooted in historical methods. While unquestionably useful in provinding diverse perspectives, this also meant that they could fall into traps historians are trained to avoid. Nevertheless, videogame historians are slowly redressing this situation by adding to the literature on videogame history and correcting flawed interpretations of gaming’s past, in part by exploring beyond videogame canons.

Deadplay started as a solo project by myself, Dany Guay-Bélanger, when I was completing my master’s degree. It wanted to create and engage an active community dedicated to the preservation of videogames by the use of this website and a podcast of the same name. I have since started a PhD and am now reviving (see what I did there?) Deadplay to try to build a nexus where anyone interested in the history and preservation of videogames can come see what is going in those fields. You can still find the podcast’s first two episodes, which explore the issues of videogame preservation and proposes possible solutions, and their scripts on the website, but Deadplay is expanding its scope.

Videogames are inherently social, and so should their study and preservation. Since this project is only beginning, not everything has been accounted for. Therefore, I need your help! Every page on this site is embedded with a overlay. The James Randi Educational Foundation described it as “a peer review layer for the entire Internet.”[1] lets you annotate and comment on the entire website. It will let you suggest ways to improve Deadplay. I especially encourage you to give suggestions on the podcast’s script. To learn how to install and use this overlay, click on this link.

If you have any suggestion, want to help, or simply have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out using one the of the social media icons in the lower left-hand corner of the page or by sending an email to:

Welcome to Deadplay!

[1]Tim Farley, “ Reaches Funding Goal,” Published: 17 November 2011,