Posted on 2017/10/31 by

The Aquarius Home Computer and Raiford Guins

How do you work with and research something that is no longer used in the way that it was originally intended to be used? How do you reconcile the need to preserve video games and the need to interact with them through play? These are just some of the questions that Raiford Guins deals with in his “Museified” chapter. The answers to these questions are often quiet convincing and provide a hopeful alternative to video game researchers. Guins begins by challenging the definition of video games that relies on their being “powered up” (Guins 31). In the museum context, power is rarely surged through video games in the name of preservation, and so Guins shifts the focus from direct human interaction with the technology and instead focuses on what remains. Touch from the public often must be limited, or completely blocked due to the unfortunately rough handling of objects by the masses. Thus, when video games are no longer turned on and played with, we are left with “empty hulls” (35), and this chapter focuses on what can be gained from focusing on these remains.

Guins’ argument that much can be gained from examining these “empty hulls,” and that new questions can spring from them is quiet convincing. If I were to simply examine the Aquarius Home Computer System without touching it, or playing with it as it was intended, I could learn a lot about the machine and its cultural context. I could learn about the context in which it was released, how it had a difficult time competing with other machines on the market, and I could closely examine the box and realize that a lot may be said about the exclusion of young women from the art, as well as the exclusion of people of colour. These observations could potentially lead to larger research projects in the field of video games studies and they have all been formulated without touching the object.

When I began researching for this probe I was adamant that something would be lost if touch and play were completely removed from the observation and research of a video game. I had gained a lot of insight about myself, my research, and the Aquarius through working directly with it in its intended way. Then I began to research terms like museum, touch, the public, and quickly realized that the public is often lacking the touch anxiety and gentleness we have previously discussed in this course. In a CBC article, I read about a man who ignored the plentiful warnings about not touching the clocks in a museum and wished to set the pendulum of a clock swinging; he broke the priceless clock. In a Sydney Morning Herald article, I read about countless museum goers who touched, kissed, climbed on, and urinated on various museum objects. If the public does not respect the objects they are encountering, is it any wonder that museums are anti-touch? After this research, I could not begin to reconcile my feelings that using video game consoles as they were intended provided important information for a researcher with the fact that the public is perhaps too rough and maybe inconsiderate to be allowed to touch museum-worthy objects. Why do some people feel anxiety about opening boxes, or even just being in a room with “important” objects, and others feel that it is okay to touch ancient paintings and sculptures? If museum objects become community objects as Guins suggests, is it not then the duty of the museum to preserve the objects for everyone to be able to see them (53)? I have many questions about preservation and the human desire to keep things in perfect condition forever? What is the desire behind this act? These questions, however, may be for another probe.

(Taken from the Sydney Morning Herald)

I still do not know how to make sense of the relationship between touch and preservation. I have many questions about what constitutes museum-worthy, am I naïve to think that everyone will benefit from touching and playing with these objects, and are humans incapable of general respect for objects that do not only belong to them? What I have concluded is that the Residual Media Depot may be one solution to my questions. We are given a unique opportunity to touch and work directly with these objects, but there is a general understanding that we must be gentle with these objects. The opportunity to study the “empty hulls,” as well as to work with and touch the objects is given to students. This intersection is where new and exciting research can be had and celebrated.

Works Cited

Bailey, John. “Do Not Touch: What happens when museum visitors ignore the signs.” The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sydney              Morning Herald, 24 Nov. 2016, www.smh.com.au/national/museum-mishaps-seo-here-20161123-gsvtxm.html.

Guins, Raiford. “Museified.” Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2014. 31-73.

“Man ignores museum ‘no touching’ policy, breaks one-of-a-Kind clock.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 12 Oct. 2017,                            www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-friday-edition-1.3614924/man-ignores-museum-no-touching-policy-                      breaks-one- of-a-kind-clock-1.3614930.

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