One of the most comprehensive resources for researching retro game history is the International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG). Located at The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, ICHEG houses one of the largest collections of digital and electronic games in the world, including hundreds of retro console and computer games from the 1970s through the 1990s. Their physical collection provides an unparalleled opportunity for hands-on research. They also have extensive digital collections, oral histories, conference proceedings, and scholarly publications that can be accessed online. Their website at https://www.icheg.org provides a gateway to explore their collections and is an excellent starting point for any retro game history research project.
Beyond ICHEG’s collection, many libraries and archives hold special collections focused on videogame and computer game history that can offer primary source materials for research. Some particularly notable ones include the New York Public Library’s Maurice Sendak Collection (focused on early computer games of the 1970s-80s), the Library of Congress’s digital games collection, the Strong Museum’s own game collections, archives held by The Museum of Play in Rochester, NY, and collections at places like the Smithsonian Institution, MAME project, and others. Reading room access or use of digital surrogates from these institutions allows researchers to directly examine original game software, manuals, advertisements, developer papers, and more.
Another crucial set of resources are books on video game history. Some landmark texts that provide excellent contextualizing overviews and primary source material include Coffee Break Arcade’s Game History (2017), Raiford Guins’ edited collection of scholarly works Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife (2014), Steven L. Kent’s The Ultimate History of Video Games (2001), and David Sheff’s Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World (1994). Other useful single topic books examine specific consoles, companies, genres, or eras. Many of these titles integrate oral histories, archival research, and first-hand accounts to bring depth and nuance beyond encyclopedic cataloguing.
In the digital realm, websites like Wikipedia, MobyGames, Giant Bomb, and All Game provide broad but shallow histories, release information, reviews, and details on thousands of retro games, developers, and consoles. While not peer-reviewed or authoritative on their own, they can help map the terrain and point researchers towards primary sources. Console-specific enthusiast sites often offer deep dives into particular platforms and exclusive interviews. The unofficial SEGA Retro wiki and KLOV game database also mix aggregated data with original research. Emulation sites provide access to playable ROMs and ISOs, useful for examining and documenting original games.
Beyond published materials, oral histories are a critical method for accessing insider accounts and perspectives not available through other documentation alone. For many no-longer-existent early developers, oral histories may provide the only substantial records of their processes and experiences. Notable oral history projects include the National Museum of Play/Strong Museum’s ScrewAttack oral histories, the Software Conservancy archive, the ICHEG Video Game History Interviews, and individual collections at places like the Museum of the Moving Image. Conducting your own oral histories with seminal developers can yield original source material.
Conferences like DiGRA, FDG, and the Austin Game Conference allow access to scholars actively pushing retro game studies forward through presentations and networking. Social media sites have facilitated grassroots historical preservation efforts and brought together connected global communities of retro gamers and historians. Reddit forums, Facebook groups, and YouTube channels document discoveries, share knowledge, and collaborate on projects.
By leveraging the breadth of these diverse resources—archives, publications, digital platforms, oral histories, conferences, and communities—researchers can gain a multidimensional understanding of retro videogame history through primary artifacts, contextual information, and creators’ own words to develop authoritative, compelling studies that add to our collective understanding of this influential art form and technology’s origins, evolution, and impact. The past deserves deep examination to inform the present and future.