Dr Rachel LinnIndependent scholar
In February of 2014, Twitch.tv played Pokémon. The experiment morphed into a sixteen-day odyssey in which the broadcast developed a culture, dueling ethics, and dramatic twists worthy of remembrance. Unfortunately for academics and curious gamers alike, the first thirty-two hours of Twitch Plays Pokémon are lost.
Stories like this are common across the discipline, impoverishing esports and game streaming research. Large-scale, systematic preservation projects informed by archival best practices are necessary for healthy academic discourse to thrive in this growing area of study. I spoke with museums, universities, and esports entrepreneurs in the United States who have stakes in esports preservation to see what archives are on the horizon. The answer stunned me: none.
This paper details the challenges esports preservation faces from every point of production. I will speculate on possible advocacy strategies to jumpstart esports and streaming preservation on the institutional and the individual level. I will then look to other preservation efforts archiving similarly complex cultural histories, and preservation efforts that target born digital materials from content creators.
This paper is a possible roadmap. It will offer paths forward in esports and game streaming preservation that are desperately needed, before the nascent history of esports is lost.
Rachel Linn holds a PhD in Interdisciplinary Arts from Ohio University, and currently works as a library manager. Her research interests include streaming and esports as performance, and the performing body in fanfiction. You can read her work in the Journal of Transformative Works and Culture. Beyond academics, she was a freelance dramaturg for the Tony award winning Alliance Theatre, and is currently promoting esports preservation through an enterprise called the Esports Archive Project.”