This week the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology published a blog post confirming that the (non-regulatory) agency has added a new class of software to its National Software Reference Library: modern PC games.
Notably, the NSRT now contains select games (including Mass Effect, World of Warcraft, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) from Steam, Electronic Arts’ Origin platform, and Blizzard Entertainment.
Some were donated by Valve, EA and Blizzard, others were purchased, but the important thing for devs to know is that these games are now embalmed in a long-term government archive of popular computer software.
The NSRL exists primarily to help digital forensics and cybersecurity researchers identify and track software, so everything in it has been run through an algorithm that assigns a 60-character string (of both letters and numbers) as a unique hash. Those hashes are now part of a public database, a database that the NISL claims also doubles as a “repository of culturally significant digital artifacts.”
“We’re not watching what gamers are doing,” NSRL lead Doug White stated in the blog post. “But we need to include gaming software in the NSRL if we want to stay relevant.”
While these are reportedly the first modern PC games to be archived in the NSRL, they aren’t the first games: two years ago the NIST worked to archive a collection of retro games (including what were presumably Atari copies of SimCity, Asteroids, and Mario Bros.) acquired from a collector by Stanford University.