You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, May 15, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

U-M computer and video game archive has lofty goal: Collect every game ever made

By Pete Cunningham


Michigan student Darren Lin plays Final Fantasy 7 at the Computer and Video Game Archive at the University of Michigan library on North Campus.

Angela J. Cesere |

Navigate through the underground maze of library stacks and study tables in the basement of the Duderstadt Center on the University of Michigan’s North Campus and you’ll find a virtual treasure chest in room B474.

From the outside, the room looks much like the private study rooms that surround it. But on the shelves where books should be there are Xbox 360s, Playstations and more video games than any 12-year-old could ever dream of.

Room B474 is no ordinary library, it’s UM's Computer and Video Game Archive, which boasts more than 3,000 games for more than 30 systems.

Unlike other video game archives throughout the world, anybody can come into Duderstadt and play any game available, whether for research or just to relax after a long day of studying.

In that sense, the video game archive is without peer.

“Leaders and best,” jokes Dave Carter, who came up with the idea for the archive back in 2007 and has been in charge of it since opening in 2008.

Carter, a computer engineering librarian at UM’s Art, Architecture & Engineering Library, has the lofty goal to fill the archive with every video game ever made.

“It’s a goal I can never accomplish,” Carter said with a smile, in recognition of the fact that if he accomplished the goal tomorrow, he’d be behind again in a matter of hours.

Carter said most of the archive’s $12,000 annual spending budget goes toward new games, though he will pounce on a classic if he sees it on EBay.

Most of the older games are donated.

“I always tell them they can donate to us and come visit anytime if they want," Carter said.

The games and systems at the archive range from the most recently released FIFA Soccer games for Xbox 360 to the obscure and unpopular, like the Magnavox CDI 450 which never even gained steam in ironic circles.

“It’s legendarily horrible,” Carter said holding the three-button controller of the 450. “There’s no good games for this thing.”

The archive has recreational and academic purpose. Several classes incorporate video games into the curriculum at UM.

Sometimes it’s the games themselves are being studied, for example one student researched the censorship of Nazi imagery in American and German versions of the same game.

Other times it's players which are the subject, like an industrial engineering class studying the effects of texting while driving.

“They were like, ‘we’re not letting bunch of undergrads loose on our $100 driving simulator,' so they came in here,” Carter said. “They’d learn to play a driving game, then try and text while doing it and crash into the walls.”


The controller for the Xbox game "Steel Battalion", which also includes three foot pedals.

Angela J. Cesere |

Some of the games themselves practically require a Ph.D. to play, like "Steel Battalion" for the Xbox which requires a controller with three foot pedals, a 7-gear stick shift, five switches, three joysticks, a 360 degree dial and 34 buttons.

Playing the game is about as close to being Iron Man anyone but Robert Downey Jr. has ever come.

Carter estimated about 25 percent of the people that visit the archive are there for research and 75 percent for recreation.

“It’s good to get a few hours of refreshment (while studying),” said engineering graduate student Anant Lall. “It’s amazing the collection of games they have, it's always fun to get like three or four friends and just relax.”

Contact Pete Cunnigham at or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Wed, May 16, 2012 : 2:27 a.m.

Atari's version of Pac Man allowed you to control the number of ghosts that chased you. I think each of my friends got bored after about an hour of continuous Pac Man eating the dots with no ghost on is tale. Colecovision was the one gaming system that really took skill, operating that dial was very tricky. My favorite games were Sega's Basketball Games, In one vesrion of NBA live Tom Chmaber's layup dunk was unstoppable, and in a version of Coach K Christian Laetner was unstoppable from aywhere on the floor, and he could play defense.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 12:48 a.m.

I'm all over it, but only if they have "Castle Wolfenstein," schweinhund!

Ann English

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 11:14 p.m.

I wonder if the Club Bing games are video games? Seekadoo, Travel Trak, Chicktionary, Clink, Crosswire, Dingbats, Time Capsule, Flexicon, and other games would add up points you earn after entering a name and password to log in with. At school, while waiting for a team partner to come back to the computer lab, I found an online game of Hang Man, but it wasn't Dingbats. Taxi Wrangler was my favorite game, where you go to real airports around the USA (including Alaska and Hawaii), and try to drag-and-drop 45 people into the correct taxis (food, business, outdoors, entertainment, health, hotel, museum, sports, shopping, and real estate) before they run out of patience and leave. Three rounds (10 fares, then 15 fares, finally 20 fares). Often specific tourist spots are named. Cobblestone Farm of Ann Arbor was mentioned in one game where Ann Arbor Municipal Airport was the center of the taxi patrons' requests. The Club Bing ends today. I took the information about some airports' tourist attractions (most recently Sarasota, with its Ringling Brothers legacy) and made Microsoft Access tables of the patrons, their taxi categories and destinations for keepsakes. I made up names for the patrons, who had only ten different sets of looks. Someone always got five destinations, but all got at least four.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 10:57 p.m.

I wonder if they have Battletoads?

Pete Cunningham

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

Great game! And possibly the most sampled soundtrack of all time. I've heard Battletoads music in Smashing Pumpkins and Kanye West songs.

David Kinzler

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 10:44 p.m.

I was figuring they'd have a gaggle of CGa/4-color PCs, sad face Macintoshes, an Apple II+, a TRS-80 Model 1, and maybe stuff like an Arcadia and that rightfully owned (and valuable/hotly collected!) CD-i. I can see merit to holding a collection of the old, weird and ill-advised. Electronic communications study is big now, and looking over vintage games and vintage communications software (e.g, Telix, Netscape, Groliers) could give people some needed perspective as well as true appreciation for the present. But... Xbox... 360, no less? Nah. Let the kids pirate 'em as they already do. Fave games? Alter Ego, Roadwar 2000, Hidden Agenda, Sim City Franchise, The Sims 3 and Leather Goddess of Phobos.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

favorite video game of all time? question. I was also quite partial to Tony Hawk 2 for the Playstation.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

I absolutely loved Civilization. I still play Civ III on occasion (whenever I have the luxury of time to waste). That and Pirates!, the black and white Mac version. Man.... great gaming, and I learned so much about both history and geography.

Atticus F.

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

Does anybody remember a an early RPG game from the early to mid 80's, in which you explore uncharted islands in the pacific ocean and encounter native tribes? I remember the game in my early childhood, but can not for the life of me remember the name.

Pocket Beaver

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

The Seven Cities of Gold?

Atticus F.

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 6:35 p.m.

No, it was a little earlier than that, maybe '84-'85. Also, It was made for the PC.

Guinea Pig in a Tophat

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

Was it StarTropics?


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

StarCraft all the way


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 3 p.m.

WOW...this place sounds great! Do they have a working Colecovision? I tried to fire my old one up last week to no avail....


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

Funny, the University used to have a spectacular collection of Classical and Jazz Albums on the top floor of the LSA building in the radio station, but they sold that off years ago. I never understood why they got rid of that great archive.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 2:22 a.m.

Yet they were an archive that they sold away, and your point is?

John of Saline

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

I assume they were the on-air collection, rather than collected for the purposes of making an archive?

Pocket Beaver

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

This is a important resource. I've played computer games that have had as much impact on me as a great work of literature. It would be sad if these games were lost or forgotten.