Videogame Heritage Society : A Subject Specialist Network

Author: Michael Pennington

Retrospective: The Nintendo ‘Gigaleak’

At the VHS, we strive to create a respecting environment and community. Since February 2020, we advocate for, support, and provide expertise in all aspects of collection, preservation and exhibition.

I think it is also worthwhile to highlight news developments that engage with these goals, particularly when we are still trying to formulate our own responses to increasingly pressing preservation issues.


In July/August 2020, everyone’s favourite Hanafuda card manufacturer – Nintendo – was the target of an unprecedented leak of internal data. While the leak did not shed light on any upcoming projects, it did contain information on completed works situated predominantly between the SNES and Nintendo 64 period (1990-2002ish).

The leak was raw dump of files initially posted to an infamous anonymous online forum. There was a deluge of information: development repositories (full development histories of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl), master ROMs (prototypes of Super Mario Kart and Yoshi’s Island), and beta content. As has been borne out over almost 11 months, there was an abundance of development information contained within the leak.

To play devil’s advocate: Nintendo are traditionally considered a secretive company. It is explosive news that such a large amount of undiscovered content was leaked from a notoriously tight-lipped and litigious company. Therefore, it must be great for preservation practitioners that this leak has occurred. Look at all the information we now have public access to!

And Yet. The plain ethical dilemma – and what makes this leak uncomfortable – is that this data was most likely stolen.

As the above tweets demonstrate (try writing that line in 1990), the gigaleak is tremendously difficult to deal with. The leak turns preservation into an issue of security and intellectual property law rather than a conversation on its value to documenting the complex and multifaceted history of the medium.

So in the short term, the leak was a feast for videogame publications, Nintendo fans, casual observers, and – to an extent – preservation activists.

But in the longer term, the leak could be a catastrophe for wider preservation efforts.

As part of the VHS’s remit, the society offers a valuable space where preservationists and collectors can come together to discuss the leaks, and debate how best to proceed.

Yet it is also vital for developers and publishers to work closely with preservation organisations and archivists to properly preserve these diverse and hugely significant documents.

Always the optimist, I would still like to think that this leak has opened Nintendo’s eyes to the benefits of co-operating more closely with the already stellar preservation community.

The VHS Tapes #3: Preserving Sheffield’s Game Heritage with Conor Clarke

The VHS Tapes is the Videogame Heritage Society’s monthly series of 2021 online events funded by Art Fund. 

The NVM’s own Conor Clarke, discussing the joys of the PS Vita (quite rightly)

In our third episode of the The VHS Tapes, ‘assured host’ Mikey is joined by the National Videogame Museum’s Conor Clarke.

We talk about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the museum. We also discuss how we – as a heritage organisation – can preserve the many divergent aspects of digital game culture.

Alongside a brief mention of the mighty PS Vita, we also talk about the uniqueness of the Sheffield gaming scene and the city’s unique history within the medium. Anticipate lengthy discourse surrounding Monty Mole!

The VHS Tapes #2: Exhibiting Digital Games with Foteini Aravani

The VHS Tapes is the Videogame Heritage Society’s monthly series of 2021 online events funded by Art Fund.  

Every month, Mikey – a curator at the National Videogame Museum, and de facto caretaker manager of the VHS – will be in conversation with a special guest from our network about preserving digital game culture and heritage.

An early taste of summer in March with Foteini Aravani talking about digital games.

In our March instalment of The VHS Tapes, we spoke to the awesome Foteini Aravani, Digital Curator at the Museum of London.

We talk about the extensive range of challenges involved in collecting digital games that depict London, or/and that are made by Londoners.
We also elaborate on methods for showcasing these objects through digital exhibitions and displays.

The VHS Tapes #1: Reimagining Videogame Hardware with the Retro Hour Podcast

The VHS Tapes is the Videogame Heritage Society’s monthly series of 2021 online events funded by Art Fund.

Every month a National Videogame Museum curator will be in conversation with a special guest from our subject specialist network and beyond about preserving & sharing videogame heritage.

Dan Wood’s Prized Possession: an Atari Jaguar

Ravi Abbott versus the Raspberry Pi

In this inaugural episode of The VHS Tapes, we were joined by 2/3rds of the brilliant Retro Hour Podcast. Our guests, Ravi Abbott and Dan Wood discuss their extensive collection of unique video game hardware and experiences with the medium.

We pay particular attention to how obsolete forms of digital media and digital game hardware have been reimagined for contemporary uses. Expect cameos from a modified Raspberry Pi and Atari Jaguar.

Also indulge in some zoom schadenfreude, as we witness Mikey’s visible regret at parting with his old Sony CRT TV.

National Videogame Museum wins Art Fund support for VHS

Sheffield 1200 05/06/2020: The National Videogame Museum is proud to announce it has won support from Art Fund to support the development of its new subject specialist network – the Videogame Heritage Society.

The Videogame Heritage Society (VHS) launched in February 2020 at an event held at BFI Southbank. The society coordinates approaches to the challenges of collecting and preserving videogames, and brings together both leading institutions and private collectors to help share knowledge and develop best practice. The Art Fund support will directly enable the creation of new ‘explainer’ resources, short-form pieces aimed at simply bringing the ideas and challenges of videogame collection to a broader audience. In addition to the explainers, the VHS will also launch a series of online seminars, leading to an international conference.

More information can be found at artfund.org

The VHS has already drawn interest and membership from over 20 leading heritage institutions and museums such as Science Museum Group, British Library, Museum of London, Centre for Computing History, Bath Spa University and, importantly, a host of independent collectors and specialists.

Iain Simons, NVM said- “On behalf of our staff, trustees and partners, I’d like to thank Art Fund for this important grant that recognises the need for the UK’s first digital Subject Specialist Network. We have gathered an amazing group of institutions and individual collectors to share knowledge in a field of great interest to the public, many institutions and collectors, but which has so far not won much art funding. It’s important to recognise the role of private collectors. So much specialist knowledge is held within the private, enthusiast community which reaches institutional collectors indirectly. The VHS is a really exciting opportunity for us to help build bridges and learn from each other, so we are delighted to win this funding”.

VHS Membership Form – Now Live!

We’ve had a fantastic first response to the official announcement for the Videogame Heritage Society.

Now, for the next step, the VHS are delighted to announce the release of the VHS Membership Form!

A VHS Membership allows access to the exclusive VHS Discourse Forum; an easy and quick way for our members to interact with each other on all matters of game preservation.

Our forum provides an online venue for crucial discussion, and offers practitioners, institutions, collectors and enthusiasts the opportunity to forge new connections to aid game preservation in the UK and around the world.

As we gather our members, in the future a VHS Membership will also allow unfettered access to our resource library, a bibliography of game preservation sources, and the opportunity to aggregate the brilliant research of our members together in one place.

Sign up today! You can find the VHS Membership Form here.

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