Critically Endangered small

Older video games designed and played on platforms and devices that are no longer supported, especially those with complex but obsolete rights management or system dependencies. This group includes also older editions of games still published in newer editions

Group: Gaming

Trend: New Entry

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Last update: New Entry

Previously: New Entry

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is now a priority

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

Loss seems likely: by the time tools or techniques have been developed the material will likely have been lost.


Civilization; SimCity; Sonic the Hedgehog; EA Sports; Doom; Wolfenstein 3D; Lemmings

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Complex hardware dependencies or bespoke hardware; dependence on obsolete, low usage operating systems with no emulation pathway; complex intellectual property rights; use of older magnetic media; free distribution on magazines; loss of underlying code or gaming engine; limited or no commercial interest; dependency on remote servers that are closed.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Emulation pathway; source code; trusted repository; large user community;

2019 Review

This is a subset of an entry made in 2017 for ‘Gaming’ which the Jury has split into four discrete entries.  This entry for older games encourages greater consideration of the technical complexities which arise from preservation of software and hardware environments as well as the historic value which games have acquired.  There is an active specialist market for older games which enables, preservation but skews it to commercial interests. The meaning of ‘older’ is open to interpretation but certainly any version more than 10 years from release should be included here, even if and perhaps especially if there are more recent releases

Additional Jury Comments

Focussing on offline gaming here - it’s difficult to distinguish these from the related ‘Offline gaming’ entry but there are additional complexities in terms of systems dependencies that need to be considered. It is one thing to be able to get older software running on a different CPU architecture (emulation), but another thing entirely to recreate the peripherals (Wiimotes, plastic guitars, steering wheels, even bongo drums!) that are required to play the games as intended. There’s a sort of kinaesthetic issue: one could perhaps use the accelerometers in modern smartphones to simulate the functionality of a Wiimote, but it will feel different in the hand.

It might be possible to sub-divide between games that have a dependency on communication with servers that no longer exist (loss has already happened) and others where the dependencies are to do with old hardware/software where there is more potential to preserve the interaction.

It’s unclear who is responsible for preserving what and games may be falling between the cracks.

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