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Posted on Mon, May 3, 2010 : 3:03 p.m.

University of Michigan Computer and Video Game Archive offers old-school gaming experience

By James Dickson

To see them playing "Battle Toads" on an old-school Nintendo, you'd never suspect Justin Morris and Ares Pangoulias had a final exam in civil engineering coming up in two hours.

The two juniors, civil engineering majors at the University of Michigan, found the Nintendo game a good way to blow off steam before final exams. Even though the students had never visited the U-M Computer and Video Game Archive, they thought finals week was as good a time as any to start.

UM Video Game.JPG

Two U-M students enjoy a round of Battle Toads before their civil engineering final.

James Dickson |

The archive was founded in fall 2008 after David Carter, an engineering librarian at U-M, petitioned the U-M Library system that video games were a novel new frontier.

In just under two years, an archive that started with 400 games has grown to 1,400, across more than 20 gaming systems from the Playstation 3 to Sega Genesis to the Atari 2600.

The archive has now moved to its summer schedule. Hours are truncated through the fall to account for lower demand as students leave campus. Until students arrive for Welcome Week, the archive will be only open Monday to Friday from noon to 7 p.m.

Patrons at the archive are allowed to play uninterrupted for at least an hour. If others want to use the station after that time, they're allowed to.

Peter Fullen, a freshman from Saline, found out about the archive while doing a search of the U-M Library website. His interest was piqued immediately, and he's been returning once or twice a week ever since.

One of the honor student's goals before leaving campus is to beat "Dante's Inferno" for the Xbox 360.

During the year, students and faculty even use the archive for research purposes. One student came in to research gender equity issues in video games over the years. And from time to time, gaming professors bring in classes to learn what works and what doesn't.

On the last day of class, the archive hosted a Rock Band exhibition. With a makeshift stage, big screens, and a live video feed, wannabe student rockers could feel like they were actually performing live.

"We'll be having another one in the fall," Carter said. "I hope people take advantage."

Carter had no numbers on how many people patronize the library each year. The archive, on the second floor of the Duderstadt Center on North Campus, is open to the public - not just U-M students or Ann Arbor residents.

James David Dickson can be reached at



Wed, May 5, 2010 : 5:53 a.m.

@Bob - It's located on the second floor of the James and Anne Duderstadt Center, on U of M's North Campus, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd.


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 10:55 a.m.

Sorry if I missed it....but what is the address of this place??

Dave Carter

Tue, May 4, 2010 : 9:48 a.m.

Pinball will have to wait until we have a lot more space. Those things are large--and noisy!


Tue, May 4, 2010 : 8:32 a.m.

It's a great place to go. I'm lucky enough to have known the founder, Dave, for close to 20 years now, and this is just one of many cool ideas he's come up with. I'm looking forward to seeing the Video Game archive grow. Dave, how long until Pinball games show up?


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 8:25 p.m.

Atticus- I remember my kids playing that game for hours... I'll ask them and post. I think there was music playing along the whole time- I can visualize the graphics! It was fun to read this article- recently had a discussion about our first memories of sending "email" and going "on line" and we were searching to see the earliest version of AOL (from perhaps 1996 or so) aol2.3, etc. So far I've found an early AOL launch page but from 1999. We thought this would be interesting.

Mike Hulsebus

Mon, May 3, 2010 : 6:54 p.m.

1) The archive is awesome 2) Atticus, I'm sure you're not thinking of Pirates, but Pirates is a great game with plenty of exploration that's a lot of fun


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 6:26 p.m.

Best article ever. Atticus, the only game title I could find that might fit is Gato, but you're in a submarine and it's a military game. You might want to check out this link which lists a very large number of computer games from the 80s. Hope you find what you're looking for.

Atticus F.

Mon, May 3, 2010 : 4:01 p.m.

Can anybody help me.? I'm trying to remember the name of a video game for the computer that came out in the early 80's, in which you explore the ocean by boat, and encounter new islands and tribes in the Pacific Ocean. I remember playing that game for hours as a kid. Does anybody out there remember that game?


Mon, May 3, 2010 : 3:49 p.m.

Cool. Funny to go back and see how outdated graphics are from even PS1 times.