The International Computer Game Collection (ICS)

For many decades now, computer and video games have been having a major impact on our society that extends across generations and all social classes. They are now a permanent presence in our daily lives, an expression of our digital society and one of the cultural goods of our age.

This means that computer games are also an important part of our cultural heritage. The first computer game was developed in the late 1950s. Much has happened since then. Today, one in every two people is playing games on their PC, console, tablet or smartphone, and the range of games on offer continues to grow more diverse and more innovative. Whereas the attention of the public generally seems to be focused on the never-ending advances being made in technical and design aspects in the games industry, decades of development have given rise to a digital cultural heritage that is worthy of preservation, so that it can be made available to academia, research and the public at large.

A number of different organisations joined forces for this purpose back in 2012, launching the International Computer Game Collection (Internationale Computerspielesammlung – ICS). They are all pursuing the same goal: to bring together their collections and their data in a single location. With more than 50,000 original titles, many of which have been compiled through donations by the public, Germany is home to a growing inventory that is the world’s biggest and most important international collection of computer games.

In 2014, a feasibility and concept study was conducted with the support of the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. As a result of this study’s findings, in 2016 the budget committee of the German Bundestag proposed making funding available for achieving these goals.

The International Computer Game Collection project consists of two phases. The Foundation for Digital Games Culture is responsible for the operational implementation of the project.

First phase
Late 2017 marked the start of implementing the first phase, with the compilation of the metadata from the collection. The goal of this first phase is to make the data available online at and in the German Digital Library (Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek – DDB). This phase was implemented in March 2019 using funding from the German government.

Second phase
In the second phase, the holdings are to be brought together physically in the same location, and the structures and logistics required for the ICS are to be put into place. This will ensure that the collection is also accessible to the public. By performing extensive documentation work and developing a scientifically sound concept for the long-term maintenance of these materials, the ICS is making an important contribution to Germany’s strategy for preserving its cultural heritage and making it available to the general public.

The complexity and interactivity of computer games place tremendous demands on the techniques used to ensure their preservation. As a result, the knowledge that is gained in making this a reality will be excellently suited to the preservation of items of digital culture in general.

This means that the ICS presents a unique opportunity – not only to preserve the interactive digital cultural inheritance, but also for Germany’s role as a centre of science.