10 Reasons Aspiring Game Devs and Game Journalists Should Explore the Internet Archive

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Have you ever wanted to design a video game, but needed inspiration for story ideas, or legally usable graphics and music? Or are you an aspiring game journalist, in need of quirky, offbeat subjects that will stand out and grab the reader's (or the editor's) imagination?

If so, the Internet Archive might be tailor-made for you. It's a wonderful repository of images, documents, movies, audio files, and general weirdness. Here are 10 reasons that the Internet Archive is a great resource for anyone who wants to develop or write about video games.

1. Retro gaming magazines

The history of the video game is fascinating, whether or not you're interested in spending an afternoon playing Space Invaders, Galaga, or Pacman.

The Archive has back issues of many publications, including Electronic Games Magazine, which published during the 1980s, a formative decade for the modern video game.Here's an issue from 1983:


2. Wacky low budget science fiction and horror movies

If you're building fantasy worlds, there are few better inspirations than the budget science fiction and horror drive-in movies hammered out during the 1950s and 1960s. My favorite is 1964's The Creeping Terror. It rivals Plan 9 From Outer Space and Troll 2 for inspired lunacy. The monster resembles a Chinese dragon puppet made of shag carpet. The Creeping Terror and hundreds of other movies are available at the Archive.  Be sure to watch to at least the four minute mark, when the monster exits the flying saucer.  Your life will be richer for it.

3. The C64-Gamevideoarchive

This collection is a set of playthroughs of classic Commodore 64 games.  As of this writing the collection includes 34 play-throughs ordered chronologically by the release dates of the games.  The Archive reports that more games will be added.

Here's Ghostbusters, the first game in the collection: 

4. Golden and Silver Age comics

Browsing through comics from the Golden Age (the 1930s through the early 1950s) and Silver Age (late 1950s to 1970) makes it quickly evident that the Golden Age wasn't really all that golden. The plots were for the most part juvenile and the dialog was often wretched. The Silver Age was somewhat better.  Comics from both eras are worth reading, though, and most of the current comic-based movie and video game franchises originated in those eras. The Internet Archive has a large collection of comics. One of my favorite Silver Age comics is Herbie the Fat Fury,  a satire of superheroes that holds up well today.  Herbie was also reportedly Alan Moore's favorite comic character.Here's the issue of Forbidden Worlds where Herbie was first introduced.


5. Music for video games

Musical scores in video games, like in movies, set the emotional tone for the action. The Internet Archive has a wide range of music you can use in your games. Be sure to check the terms of the license before you use an audio clip to determine if your use matches the license. Some clips are in the public domain, others are licensed under Creative Commons terms of varying restrictiveness. Read the license before you use the clip.

The following clips are from a gem of a collection by Torley Wong, who released 230 audio clips to the Internet Archive under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0. You can use the clips for any purpose, including commercial, as long as you credit the composer.



6. Early Animation

Carefully watching old cartoons is an excellent way of developing strong story telling skills.The early animators had to fit everything viewers needed to know into 10 minutes, and keep their interest with compelling stories and visuals.

The Internet Archive has a large collection of animated films. Here's the first Superman cartoon, created in 1941 by Max Fleischer's studio.

7. Old Game System Manuals

Reading the manuals for old game systems is a good way of learning the trade-offs and options involved in the design of video game systems. 

The Internet Archive has an extensive collection of early manuals. Here's a link to a pdf copy of the manual for the Kaos video arcade machine.

8. Old Time Radio and other audio files

The audio in games is as important as the video in drawing players into the story and keeping them fascinated. The original Gunsmoke radio drama made excellent use of narration and sound effects to move its plots forward, and is worth studying for its use of audio cues.

The radio show was much edgier than the television show it spawned, and dealt with many topics off-limits to the television series, including prostitution and drug addiction.

This is the first episode of the series, licensed by the Old Time Radio Research Group under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.  You can listen for inspiration, but can't use it in derivative products.

9. Books and articles on game theory

If you want to get really serious about the nuts and bolts of game design, a knowledge of game theory will help, whether you want to develop shoot-em-up, stealth, or table top strategy games.  The book embedded below is the English translation of a textbook published in 1980 in the Soviet Union.  It's a deep dive into the math of competition.  The intro states:

The book is intended to disseminate the ideas of game theory which have practical economic or military applications.

Needless to say it's math-heavy, but is packed with information for anyone who wants to tackle game theory in depth.


10. The Internet Arcade

The Internet Arcade is a project that archives and provides emulators for hundreds of games originally played on coin-operated arcade machines. The quality of the emulation varies from providing a good arcade gaming experience to barely playable proof-of-concept performance for the emulator, depending on the game.

But the project provides a suggested list of the games that perform well in modern web browsers. Here's a Three Stooges arcade game from Mylstar Electronics, entitled Brides is Brides, based on the short film of the same name.  If the embedded version below doesn't center properly in your browser go directly to the game on the Internet Arcade.

Published Jul. 17th 2015


Larry Felton Johnson is currently the World's Oldest Journalism Undergraduate. He retired from his previous career after far too many years as a software systems engineer (aka unix sysadmin)


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