Lost in Translation: Video Games Becoming Cultural Heritage?

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Recent attention to the question of preservation and exhibition of video games in cultural institutions such as museums indicates that this media form is moving from being seen as contentious consumer object to cultural heritage. This empirical study examines two recent museum exhibitions of digital games: GameOn 2.0 at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm (TM), and Women in Game Development at the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, Oakland (MADE). The aim is to explore how games are appropriated within such institutions, and thereby how they are configured as cultural heritage and exhibitable culture. The study uses actor-network theory in order to analyse heterogeneous actors working in conjunction in such processes, specifically focusing on translation of games and game culture as they are repositioned within museums. The study explores how games are selectively recruited at both institutions and thereby translated in order to fit exhibition networks, in both cases leading to a glossing over of contentious issues in games and game culture. In turn, this has led to a more palatable but less nuanced transformation of video games into cultural heritage. While translating video games into cultural heritage, the process of making games exhibitable lost track of games as culture by focusing on physical artefacts and interactive, playable fun. It also lost track of them as situated in our culture by skimming over or ignoring the current contentious nature of digital games, and finally, it lost track of games as being produced and experienced in a particular context, or games of culture.




Eklund, L., Sjöblom, B., & Prax, P. (2019). Lost in Translation: Video Games Becoming Cultural Heritage? Cultural Sociology, 13(4), 444–460. https://doi.org/10.1177/1749975519852501

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