Elected official in Japan wants a legal framework for preserving games and keeping them playable

Written by. Nick Mosier based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-07-13 19:00 JST)

Ken Akamatsu, who recently won a seat on Japan’s House of Councillors and will take office July 26, has shown a strong desire to preserve previously released video games. On July 13 (JST), Akamatsu took to Twitter to say that he wants games to be legally preserved in a playable state and that he has put together a team of experts to start tackling the issue. This seems to be a genuine effort to take on the preservation of retro games and old gaming content.

Ken Akamatsu is a manga artist known for works such as Love Hina and Negima! Magister Negi Magi. Alongside his work as a manga artist, he’s also been an active voice against government censorship, with freedom of expression being his platform when running for office. After receiving 528,029 votes nationwide, Akamatsu became the first manga artist elected to Japan’s House of Councillors.

Up to this point, Akamatsu has used his personal YouTube channel to discuss his views. During a live broadcast on July 7, he talked passionately about his desire to preserve all the world’s games in a playable state. From retro games to old flip phone games, there are currently tons of games that exist that are difficult to actually play. Akamatsu aims to preserve these games in some way and have them be playable remotely in a legal manner.

*Statements about game preservation begin around 29:50 (in Japanese)

The National Diet Library already has a system for preserving books and CDs, with digital materials available to view on the internet. Akamatsu seems to want this system to expand to cover video games as well with a way to have the games playable from anywhere. He also expressed his desire to not just preserve retro games, but social and online games that have ended their services. It sounds like the goal is to make gaming history playable for future generations.

Akamatsu also brings previous experience to the table. In 2010, he launched a site called J-Comi, now known as Manga Library Z, that works to distribute out-of-print manga, light novels, and TRPG rulebooks in digital format. The site preserves out-of-print and unpublished works, and with the authors’ permission, makes them available for anyone to read. Akamatsu seems to be working to do something similar in the realm of video games.

There’s no shortage of organizations in Japan working to preserve gaming materials. There’s the Institute of Game Culture Conservation who record video game history, lineage, and culture, the Game Preservation Society who work to preserve games from the early days of gaming, the Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies, and more. We can see there are a variety of organizations approaching game preservation from a variety of viewpoints. And now that there’s an elected official with interest in the field, maybe a more direct approach to game preservation will be possible.

Between old games that have been lost to time or whose whereabouts are unknown and the technical difficulties for online games that require servers, there’s sure to be some hurdles to overcome. But the idea sounds like a dream come true for gamers. We’ll be keeping an eye out to see if or how Akamatsu’s ambition comes to fruition.