What is the International Center for the History of Electronic Games®?
The International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG) collects, studies, and interprets video games, other electronic games, and related materials and the ways in which electronic games are changing how people play, learn, and connect with each other, including across boundaries of culture and geography. ICHEG houses one of the largest and most comprehensive public collections of electronic games and game-related historical materials (more than 40,000 objects) anywhere and the only one that resides alongside and is illuminated and enhanced by comprehensive collections of other play-related objects (more than 100,000) that have inspired the design and development of electronic games. ICHEG is also supported by a research library of more than 140,000 volumes, including vintage comics and children’s books and the largest collection of toy catalogs in the United States.
How does the International Center for the History of Electronic Games define electronic games?
ICHEG defines electronic games broadly to include video games, computer games, console games, arcade games, handheld games, and toys that combine digital and traditional play. The collections include:
- Game platforms
- Packaging and advertising
- Electronic game inspired consumer products
- Personal and business papers of key figures in the electronic-game industry
- Literary and popular inspirations of electronic game imagery
- Electronic game antecedents
- Electronic game inspired consumer products
- Other associated artifacts and documents that represent or illustrate the impact of electronic games on people’s lives
Why is the International Center for the History of Electronic Games situated at The Strong?
The Strong is a collections-based educational institution devoted to the study and exploration of play. It houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of artifacts of play and a research library with more than 140,000 volumes and tens of thousands of archival records that document the history of play. Electronic games are a profoundly influential form of play, affecting not only how people play, but also how they learn and how they live. Therefore, The Strong established ICHEG to help ensure that video games, other electronic games, and related materials are collected, preserved, and interpreted for both present and future generations.
Why is the International Center for the History of Electronic Games unique among existing initiatives that collect and preserve electronic games?
ICHEG defines electronic games broadly to include video games, computer games, console games, arcade video games, handheld games, and toys that combine digital and traditional play. In addition to collecting and preserving these items, ICHEG also collects a wide range of other electronic game related artifacts and archival materials. Further, ICHEG resides alongside more than 100,000 toys, role-playing and board games, and other objects of play that have inspired and informed the creation and development of video games and other electronic games. ICHEG is also supported by a research library with more than 140,000 volumes that include vintage children’s books and comics and the largest collection of toy catalogs in the United States. Finally, ICHEG develops exhibits and undertakes other activities to interpret the historical and cultural significance of electronic games to ensure that present and future generations can explore that history, understand how it began and evolved, and appreciate the impact that electronic games have on society.
Do the preservation activities of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games include seeking ways to prevent the obsolescence or decay of floppy disks, magnetic tape, and other forms of media storage associated with electronic games?
Preserving interactive media is of paramount importance for all who are interested in the history of electronic games. At this time, ICHEG is focused chiefly on collecting, preserving, and interpreting the broad material culture of electronic games, but it is studying and implementing current best practices for optimal preservation and emulation of games in digital forms. Currently, the Library of Congress’s National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Project (NDIIPP) is researching new techniques for preservation, including funding the collaborative Preserving Virtual Worlds Project conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Stanford University, the University of Maryland, and Rochester Institute of Technology. ICHEG interacts with activities such as these through consultation with Preserving Virtual Worlds Project partners and by participating in the Game Preservation Special Interest Group of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), as well as other initiatives.
In addition to the aforementioned games and toys, what else does the International Center for the History of Electronic Games collect?
In keeping with ICHEG’s interest in the broad cultural history of electronic games, the collections encompass not only games and game platforms, but also a wide variety of other materials such as packaging, advertising, publications, electronic game inspired consumer products, literary and popular inspirations of electronic game imagery, personal and business papers, and other associated artifacts and documents that represent or illustrate the impact of video games and other electronic games on people’s lives.
What is the scope of the collection of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games?
At more than 40,000 items and growing, the ICHEG collection of video games, other electronic games, and related materials is the largest and most comprehensive public collection in the United States and one of the largest in the world. It includes the most important arcade video games of all time; examples of every major video game platform manufactured since 1972, from Magnavox Odyssey and Atari 2600 through Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii; more than 12,000 video games, from Atari Space Invaders, Nintendo NES Super Mario Bros., and Sega Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog to Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo and Nintendo Wii Sports; examples of all significant handheld-game systems and many electronic educational games, from Milton Bradley Microvision and Nintendo Game Boy to Sony PSP; more than 3,000 children’s electronic educational games and software titles; and an extensive collection of children’s toys, such as Simon, Tamagotchi, and Webkinz, that combine digital and traditional play; significant international systems, such as Nintendo Famicom and Sega Mega Drive; and much, much more. Equally important, ICHEG’s collection is housed alongside more than 100,000 toys, board and role-playing games, and other objects of play that have inspired and informed the creation and development of electronic games and alongside a research library of more than 140,000 volumes, including comic books, children’s books, and the largest collection of toy catalogs in the United States. This juxtaposition expands the research and interpretive potential of the ICHEG collections exponentially.
Are the International Center for the History of Electronic Games collections accessible to scholars, other researchers, and the public in general either on site or online?
On-site access to the collections is available to scholars and researchers by appointment. Many artifacts are on public view at The Strong's National Museum of Play, including classic arcade games, the latest consoles, game prototypes, handwritten papers and sketches from electronic game inventors, and more in eGameRevolution®, an expansive, artifact-rich exhibit produced by The Strong’s ICHEG. Additional items are also accessible through The Strong's online collections catalog, and with the help of grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, ICHEG is currently cataloging all its collections with the goal of eventually making all that information accessible online.
To encourage and support scholarship, The Strong awards research fellowships three times each year for periods of study ranging from one week to three months.
Is the International Center for the History of Electronic Games actively collecting additional electronic games and related material?
Yes. ICHEG is actively seeking and acquiring additional examples of games, game platforms, handheld-game systems, children’s electronic educational games and software titles, toys that combine digital and traditional play, and supporting materials of all types, including other game-inspired consumer products, packaging, advertising, historical records, and business and personal papers related to the design and production of electronic games and their use.
How can individuals or organizations donate to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games collections?
The International Center for the History of Electronic Games encourages queries from individuals and organizations that have important electronic games and related materials that merit a permanent home where they can help inform future generations.
To inquire about donating games, platforms, or other materials, contact:
Jon-Paul C. Dyson, Director, International Center for the History of Electronic Games