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The OAIS Reference Model vs. The BFG 9000 DOOM Software Representation Information

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Reference Model


The BFG 9000

DOOM Software Representation Information

The Preserving Virtual Worlds project has been investigating how computer games and interactive fiction might be preserved in a manner consistent with the OAIS reference model. The basic notions of representation information (needed to decode digital information) and context information (needed to intellectually situate digital information) would seem to be applicable to the preservation of computer games. However, our research to date suggests that OAIS’s assumptions regarding the relationship between archivists and the community they serve do not necessarily hold for a preservation repository of computer games. The OAIS reference model assumes a relative homogeneity in the user community’s knowledge base; archivists’ decisions regarding the level of representation information to store are aimed at retaining the minimum necessary to assist members of that community. With respect to this model, our investigations suggest that potential users of a game archive demonstrate a challenging range of technical knowledge with respect to gaming technology and use. We have not found a common intellectual grounding in software design and implementation or in game design that would allow an archivist to readily discern an appropriate level of representation information to record for games. So, while a minimum level of representation information can be identified (see TABLE 1), users with less knowledge and experience with modern software and hardware architectures may require significantly greater representation information.


DOOM Software Context Information

The same pattern holds for context information. Allowing users of a game archive to fully understand the context for a particular game also requires providing them with much more information than the implicit information provided by digital records’ archival bond. But potential users of a game archive come from a variety of perspectives and with vastly differing research needs that require different contextualizing information. The needs of a game researcher investigating the relationships between game companies and user communities with respect to issues of game mods and intellectual property law are very different from the needs of a researcher investigating the influence of the development of pixel shading technology on game art, and both require significant information beyond copies of the games themselves to support their endeavors. These differing users bring varying levels of

knowledge of game history and game play to their work which complicate the task of any archivist attempting to determine the forms and extent of context information that must be preserved along with the game itself.


Ghostbuster, Hello Kitty

Flashlight & Lego Base



Preserving Virtual Worlds Project

UIUC Team: Jerome McDonough, Patricia Hswe, Rob Olendorf

MITH Team: Neil Fraistat, Matthew Kirschenbaum, Kari Kraus, Rachel Donahue

RIT Team: Andrew Phelps, Elizabeth Lawley, Christopher Egert, Heather Arbiter

SU Team: Henry Lowood, Susan Rojo