Preservationists are quick to save a lost, forgotten movie or book from the trash heap, but in the minds of the mainstream video games do not qualify for that same level of respect and protection. However, people such as Frank Cifaldi are working to change that. Cifaldi has written an impassioned account of why rescuing canceled games from oblivion is so important and why he's become something of an Indiana Jones figure of the gaming industry by stealing "artifacts" for the sake of history.
For the past decade or so, I have directly or indirectly been the cause of countless instances of software piracy. I have obtained games I was not supposed to have, made digital copies, and distributed them over the internet -- an act I would consider both morally and legally reprehensible under just about any other circumstances. And despite the many risks to my career this wide-open confession might bring me, I don't regret a thing. My actions have helped many and hurt none, and as a historian of the crazy young medium that is video games, I consider these acts to be absolutely necessary.
You see, my brand of piracy is a highly specialized one. I obtain and distribute unreleased games, titles that were developed -- sometimes to completion -- but for various reasons were never sold in stores. The games I've helped to "liberate" were so rare that in many cases there was only one copy left in the entire world. Without people like me around, they might have been lost forever.
It's because of Cifaldi and those like him that the gaming community knows as much as it does about forgotten lore such as Star Fox 2, the original Nintendo Entertainment System version of EarthBound, Taito's hockey RPG Hit the Ice, and the parody game Penn and Teller's Smoke & Mirrors (which includes the notoriously dull driving simulator Desert Bus). As the medium continues to evolve and become recognized as a legitimate source of art, protecting lost games such as these will increase in importance. Thanks to forward-thinking people like Frank Cifaldi, tomorrow's digital museums will have fewer gaps in their collections.