Preservationists Are Saving Video Game History, One Upload at a Time

Games are key to understanding modern culture, but archiving them can be surprisingly challenging

Nicole Carpenter
Published in
9 min readJun 27, 2019


Credit: The Strong

How much is history worth? In May, the video game world got an answer of sorts: $14,000.

That was the winning bid for a prototype of a cancelled game developed for the original Famicom — the Japanese name for the Nintendo Entertainment System from the 1980s, with its pixelated graphics. Indy: The Magical Kid was based on a series of Japanese choose-your-own-adventure books. The game had some early previews in magazines but was ultimately scrapped, making its reemergence on the auction block — a notable event for a community of preservationists working to save video game history.

But there was a problem. That community, led in part by Nintendo preservation group Forest of Illusion, hoped to win the game with $7,000 they had raised together — yet that winning bid came unexpectedly from a private collector who has no intention of preserving Indy for posterity.

Forest of Illusion co-founder togemet2, who asked not to use his real name because the process of preserving games is sometimes a legal gray area due to copyrights and other issues, tells OneZero that the loss came suddenly. (Archivists and historians are not necessarily looking to sell or even distribute versions of games they’ve saved online, but creating an unauthorized reproduction often technically violates copyright law.)

“This is culture. If we lose the pieces that brought us here, then we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes.”

“Unfortunately, we were outbid in the last few minutes of the auction,” togemet2 says. According to togemet2, the buyer said in an anonymous message sent to a Japanese fan site that “he had bought it to stop reproductions getting out, and that he would protect it as a Japanese treasure.” Togemet2 added that if this is, indeed, the case, the likelihood of the game being lost forever is high.