Edge magazine

From EditThis.info

There are repositories for a great deal of basic videogame information. Wikipedia being by far the best of a bad bunch, but no place for such videogame ephemera, let alone its classification and ordering. Projects such as the Internet Archive are either extraordinarily selective – type "wipeout" into the search function and you'll get just one video match for the first game—or required detailed knowledge of what existed in the past to search stored http addresses directly.

So Wikipedia is, by default and certainly not intention, the best searchable repository that currently exists or the games themselves. Naturally it's beset with faults, and a recent incident illustrated not just Wikipedia's unsuitability for storing information about videogames themselves, but also the difficulties that lie in wait for any attempt to do so with secondary sources. Multi-user Dungeon games are text-based virtual worlds that accommodate multiple players, the forerunners of the MMOG. MUD communities are still alive and kicking, if somewhat smaller than in the '80s heyday, and were recently sparked into action when the Wikipedia article on Threshold, a game that's been running for 13 years, was proposed for deletion. In the jargonized world of Wikipedia, this process is a to-and-fro between the interested parties until a decision is ether mutually agreed or, after a period of time and no clear result, made by an administrator.

The Threshold controversy could be written up at length, but it brought to the fore an acute issue for MUDs and non-mainstream videogames in general. "Threshold didn't have a means of defending itself,'"says Richard Bartle. the co-creator of MUDs, "because the sources that are authoritative about it don't fall under the Valid sources" for Wikipedia." There were plenty of sources that verified the game existed, that it is of note within the MUD genre, and talked about its content. But none of them, bar a cursory mention In a now-defunct print magazine, qualified as reliable sources under Wikipedia's guidelines ("reliable in the context of Wikipedia is jargon, and worryingly defined: the rather old fashioned notion that 'reliable sources are credible published materials with a reliable publication process' is central, although there is a later caveat accepting that the reliability of any source depends on context). "I mean, is MUD dev [a mailing list about MUD design] acceptable? It's one that major figures contributed to, used, and if you were going to do any kind of serious research into MUDs you would need access to that. Some of the articles that have been written about MUDs are riddled with errors, yet they're valid sources, and the kind of oral tradition that exists is considered invalid." That 'oral' tradition, and the Usenet groups, MUD websites and even blog posts by the likes of (Bartle and Raph Koster, lead designer of Ultima Online and a key figure in the upcoming Metaplace, are considered as self published works and therefore invalid.

There's a key point about multiplayer and massively multiplayer games in particular here. How can anyone hope to understand them after the event without first-hand, contemporary accounts? "When it comes to MUDs, how can you recapture what a MUD was like?" asks Bartle. "All you can do is look at the top Mud Sites, the two main websites servicing the MUD community, are comidptcd unreliable - both containing content written, again, by the community. It has to be said that, by modern standards of web design and collaborative networks, they're both simplistic at best, but this hardly invalidates the cant be questioned, however, the more disturbing aspect of Threshold's deletion is that anything written by its community was not considered as expert material, but rather as self-interest. The simple fact Is that the hundreds of players of Threshold know about Threshold, but no 'reliable' videogame media have ever mentioned the game, let alone played it - yet are considered as the only possible authoritative source for Information concerning the game. It's particularly notable that the Mud Connector and content. In short, a videogame deserves an entry in and of itself but, outside of a short 'Reception' section in certain articles which focuses on professional criticism, that game's players are considered irrelevant.

So Threshold had to go. Naturally, as soon as it was removed another Threshold article was created on Wikipedia, the edit wars began again and were ongoing as we went to press, it's an example that illustrates the inherent problems in trying to document videogame history with, arguably, the only plausible approach large-scale involvement of communities. "I think that Wikipedia in general is trying to become that sort of repository," says Matt 'KieferSkunk' Kellner, a Wikipedia administrator whose editing history Includes countless videogame articles. "But its main problem is a "too many cooks in the kitchen' syndrome -you have recognised and highly qualified industry experts working alongside fans and novice editors who often have completely different view on what constitutes a good article. this lack of agreement is the biggest reason that Wikipedia in general is not taken seriously." The danger is that while Wikipedia follows its own path, and no alternative exists, very real history is being lost.


It's easy to be snippy about Wikipedia, but the fact is that a great deal of its videogame content is the most complete starting point you could wish for. An excellent example of this is its Super Nintendo Entertainment System article. "I helped with that one, mainly in copy editing and proofreading, but it was already in excellent shape when I came across it," says Kellner. "It's a very comprehensive article, discussing not only the physical system itself, but its development history, notable points in Nintendo's advertising campaign against Sega, its notable games and accessories and how it still has a loyal fan following today It is well-sourced and points the reader to numerous articles all over the net, as well as in print sources, where they can find more detailed and useful information to continue researching the topic."

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