Preserving Virtual Worlds – TinyMUD to SecondLife

A recent press release from the Library of Congress, Digital Preservation Program Makes Awards to Preserve American Creative Works, describes the newly funded project aimed at the preservation of ‘virtual worlds’:

The Preserving Virtual Worlds project will explore methods for preserving digital games and interactive fiction. Major activities will include developing basic standards for metadata and content representation and conducting a series of archiving case studies for early video games, electronic literature and Second Life, an interactive multiplayer game. Second Life content participants include Life to the Second Power, Democracy Island and the International Spaceflight Museum. Partners: University of Maryland, Stanford University, Rochester Institute of Technology and Linden Lab.

This has gotten a fair amount of coverage from the gaming and humanities sides of the world, but I learned about it via Professor Matthew Kirschenbaum‘s blog post Just Funded: Preserving Virtual Worlds.

The How They Got Game 2 post Library of Congress announces grants for preservation of digital games gives a more in depth summary of the Preserving Virtual Worlds project goals:

The main goal of the project is to help develop generalizable mechanisms and methods for preserving digital games and interactive fiction, and to begin to test these mechanism through the archiving of selected test cases. Key deliverables include the development of metadata schema and wrapper recommendations, and the long-term curation of archived cases.

I take this all a bit more personally than most might. I was a frequent denizen of an online virtual world known as TinyMUD (now usually referred to as TinyMUD Classic). TinyMUD was a text based, online, multi-player game that existed for seven months beginning in August of 1989. In practice it was sort of a cross between a chat room and a text based adventure. The players could build new parts of the MUD as they went – in many ways it was an early example of crowdsourcing. There was a passionate core of players who were constantly building new areas for others to explore and experience – not unlike what is currently the case in SecondLife. These types of text based games still exist – see MudMagic for listings.

Apparently August 20, 2007 will be TinyMUD’s 18th Annual Brigadoon Day. It will be celebrated by putting TinyMUD classic online for access. The page includes careful notes about finding and using a MUD Client to access TinyMUD. The existence of an ongoing MUD community of users has kept software like this alive and available almost 20 years later.

With projects like Preserving Virtual Worlds getting grants and gaining momentum it seems more plausible with each passing day that 18 years from now, parts of 2007’s SecondLife will still be available for people to experience. I am thankful to know that a copy of the TinyMUD world I helped build is still out there. I am even more thankful to know that the technology still exists to permit users to access it even if it is only once a year.

Update: 20th Anniversary of TinyMud Brigadoon day is set for Thursday, August 20, 2009

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Posted on 17th August 2007
Under: access, at risk records, born digital records, funding, future-proofing, preservation | 3 Comments » | Print This Post Print This Post

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