The Link area on the second floor of UNL’s Love Library transformed is not a typical retro gaming battleground.
But each day last week at 1:00 p.m, students squared off against library staff in an array of retro arcade games ranging from Dr. Mario to LSD: Dream Emulator, all of which were archived online for free use.
Throughout the day, students and faculty filtered in and out of the Link, set up for the university’s exhibit for Love Data Week, a national initiative to raise awareness about computer data.
Greg Tunink, a programmer and analyst at the UNL Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, coordinated the event — and set a few of the high scores.
“I was inspired to ask our former Digital Archivist Blake Graham about doing an event related to retro gaming after watching a video on YouTube from a gaming channel I follow about backing up and restoring save files from old cartridges,” he said between turns on Bubble Bobble.
Tunink said he gained a greater appreciation for the work librarians and archivists do to preserve elements of various cultures.
“Computing and gaming culture is a part of millions of people’s lives which I see as just as worthwhile to preserve, and I thought it would be interesting to tie the two together,” Tunink said.
In addition to setting up the games, Tunink gave a pair of drop-in discussions about preservation.
“The talks were intended to be friendly educational conversations about the work of preservation and the legal and logistical hurdles which often make that work so challenging,” he said.
During the talks, Tunink walked through the process of saving files from game cartridges, which can die over time.
On Friday, the last day of the exhibit, second-year computer science student Todd Bush teamed up with Tunink to set the high score on Lode Runner, a two-dimensional puzzle-oriented retro game in which players aim to steal treasure from a group of monks.
Bush said he hoped to find ways to get involved with the library’s mission of game preservation.
“As a computer science major, this is right up my alley,” he said.
Though the university library has hosted events in past years for Love Data Week, this year’s exhibit marks the first time that it has involved actual gaming. But, according to Tunink, it probably won’t be the last.
“My hope is that, if we got enough interest from campus, I may try to make this a series of events in the future exploring the evolution and preservation of other kinds of computing software and hardware in addition to gaming,” he said. “I hope we can learn from each other and contribute in some small way to passing on the history of computing preservation and making the past available to future generations.”