Texas Digital Library Conference System, TCDL 2012

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Dungeons, Dragons, and Documentation Strategy
Katrina Windon, Ryder Kouba, Emilia Mahaffey, Ian Collins

Last modified: 2012-04-16


As part of the Digital Archiving and Preservation course at the University of Texas at Austin School of Information, we conducted a project in partnership with the Briscoe Center for American History Video Game Archive to preserve (via migration and emulation) a classic video game, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Champions of Krynn. In addition to following basic digital preservation practices like creating disk images, ensuring the integrity of copies using checksums, creating access copies so that the original and archival copies may remain undisturbed, and ingesting materials into DSpace (at the project’s end, files will be transferred to the custody of the Briscoe on the UT Digital Repository), we decided to go a step further for the Briscoe. Concerned with how users access and interact with video games in a digital repository, we were interested in the context in which original users accessed the game, and how this can be conveyed to modern researchers. For video games, we feel, and for this game in particular, a simple archival description may not be able to adequately introduce the game to researchers.
Particularly for a game like Champions of Krynn, which emerges from the tradition of a table-top, paper-and-pencil, multiplayer game, and which in its digital form likewise embraces complexity and world-building, external resources reflecting the social context in which the game was originally played (channels for frustration, sources for walk-throughs, friends’ saved game states), are, we feel, a significant property, even if not one found within the original digital object. How, then, we wondered, can we emulate this context for archival researchers? As a solution we propose presenting external documentation (such as gaming forums and magazines) as well as to archivist-created access materials such as walk-throughs, discussion of the game’s origins and the original gaming experience, saved states, and interactive tools to encourage user input (as a sort of documentation strategy, to compensate for original materials that are no longer available) and interaction (such as a forum, or the capacity for users to save their own games, as played in the emulator, into the archive for access by future researchers). Our poster will discuss types of materials available, intellectual property rights concerns in archiving such materials, and the potential for archivists to create (or facilitate the creation of) supplementary materials themselves.


digital preservation; access; emulation