Monday, 13 October 2008

Preserving virtual worlds

I tried watching Paprika last night, and found it to be a fascinating film. Certainly I recognised the "dream hacking" theme as somewhat comparable to Ghost in the Shell, and the gastropod wreaking havoc at the end reminded me of Akira. But I had a problem sitting still because I was so taken by the vivid colours and the theme of digital interoperability between [me] the viewer and the reflexive digital themes of the film itself, that I was getting up off the sofa every few minutes to photograph the action. I've put up some of my efforts here, and the beauty of Gimp 2 is that there are all manner of effects you can render. "Softglow" is my personal favourite, as it really helps remove distortion from a television image, as can also be seen in the bottom image taken from the latest Grand Theft Auto. Having said that though, I think a bit of graininess is a virtue in the second image, as it connects to the media theme of Paprika, which I've amplified through use of one of Gimp's distorting "lens" effects.
Part of the reason I felt motivated to do this was I think it reconnects to themes of information storage and retrieval, as well as the Matt Hanson type stuff ,that has previously featured on this blog. Who is going to document, store, and then make accessible for future researchers, the vast tracts of virtual geography, especially once their original storage medium becomes out of date? It is a basic problem that explains why information managers generally prefer to speak of "digital persistence" rather than "digital preservation" per se. Hence I was interested to read a report some time ago about the initiative taken by the University of Texas:
The project will establish a repository that, Prof Winget hopes, game makers will come to use as an archive for games.
She also hopes that the project gets game makers thinking about the steps they need to take during game creation to preserve materials.
"We want to raise the consciousness in the industry about how important these records are," said Prof Winget. "I do not think they save anything or it's saved in such a way that they would not be able to recognise the significance of what they are holding."

I'll be endeavouring to trace some of the connections between ludology and the burgeoning interest in neogeography in my future research. On the basis of my initial inspection, it appears that a few enticing trails to follow are signposted with reference to these topics at the Digital Urban blog.

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