Home On Campus Retro games highlight history of data in Love Library display

Retro games highlight history of data in Love Library display


Each day this week, UNL students will have the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with UNL library staff members on various retro arcade games on the second floor of Love Library in the Link area. 

The games are a component of the university’s exhibit for Love Data Week, a national initiative to raise awareness about the role of computer data in the world. 

The games at the exhibit range from Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) classics like Dr. Mario to LSD: Dream Emulator, a game published in 1998 in which users explore surreal environments without any clear objective.

In addition to the games, which will be run through laptops provided by the UNL library, there will be two educational talks from Greg Tunink, a computer programmer and staff member of the university library.

The first talk, on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m., “Game Software Preservation, Emulation, and Copyright,” will discuss the history and the challenges of preserving software data. The second, on Thursday at 2:00 p.m., “Game Cartridge Backup Demonstration,” will describe the process of backing up games and files to specialty hardware.

Both talks will be held in the Link area.

Maine native and UNL Communications and Outreach Librarian Joan Barnes said the event is a fun way to bring awareness to data in the world.

“I always get involved in these projects that we’re trying to promote,” Barnes said. “The website for the games archives old data from these arcade games, because they were early computerized data.” 

Barnes said it is important to preserve and study the history of video game data.

“In the early 70s, we had Pong, which was just two paddles and a ball that went back-and-forth,” she said. 

Now, less than 50 years after the 1972 release of Pong, people have access to virtual and augmented reality systems, as well as household consoles on which gamers can play online with hundreds of others in the same game lobby.

So, what will the gaming landscape look like in another 50 years?

“In the process of getting to the next 50 years, what will happen with the data from the early stages of augmented and virtual reality systems?” Barnes asked. “Will that data be lost? That is the awareness that we want to bring; it’s interesting to look at the way things are now compared to where they were, but if all of this were lost, we wouldn’t know our technology history.” 

The games will be available to students all day, with the competitions against staff members starting at 1:00 p.m.