Game Cataloging Recommendations

In June, the Special Collections Unbound blog highlighted a spinoff of the ongoing GAMECIP project. Today's post provides further details about the project and introduces our members' work on cataloging best practices for video games.

GAMECIP (the GAme MEtadata and CItation Project is a multi-year IMLS-funded joint initiative between the UCSC Library, UCSC’s Center for Games and Playable Media, and Stanford University Libraries to investigate metadata needs and citation practices surrounding computer games in institutional collections. The project team consists of metadata librarians, computer scientists, and game researchers, including former members of the Preserving Virtual Worlds (I and II) game preservation projects. UCSC is largely focusing on the citation practice issue, while Stanford has taken the lead on the metadata side.

Our first project was a draft element set for digital games to identify core elements needed for game identification and to facilitate the crosswalking of metadata across different schemas. We found that there was an urgent need to address anomalies in the current practices of library cataloging of video games. Libraries formerly used Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition, and presently use RDA (Resource Description and Access) to produce the metadata which populates the online catalog. As video games were a relatively new and rapidly changing medium, the cataloging practices have historically lagged behind in adequately describing games. After researching the History of Video Game Cataloging in U.S. Libraries, we decided that the most effective and practical way to improve library metadata in the short term was to work with existing library organizations to promote best practices within the current cataloging environment. GAMECIP members Greta de Groat from Stanford and Marcia Barrett from UCSC teamed with other members of OLAC (Online Audio Visual Catalogers) to produce Best Practices for Cataloging Video Games Using RDA and MARC21 which was published online by OLAC in July.

Our analysis of current metadata practices exposed the lack of a controlled vocabulary for video game platforms. Controlled vocabularies have long been major tools of library cataloging, allowing for the collocation of names of authors, titles of works published under various titles, and terminology of subjects. This allows users to retrieve all of the relevant works without having to individually search every variant. The library community has never developed a controlled vocabulary for video game platforms, so the GAMECIP team saw an opening to contribute a useful tool to the library cataloging community. Spearheaded by Eric Kaltman and Peter Chan, a group of undergraduate researchers assembled and recorded the names of gaming platforms and their variant names. They also recorded the various physical media associated with these platforms, and mapped them to the RDA media carrier vocabulary used by libraries. These vocabularies are available in the Open Metadata Registry, a platform designed to host library vocabularies in both eye-readable and RDF forms, enabling ready use by the linked data technologies that libraries and archives are expecting to migrate to in the near future. Mitch Mastroni's spinoff project on photographing hardware and creating data sheets for the platforms and media is connected with this initiative.

Presentations on the cataloging best practices and the controlled vocabularies were given at the OLAC meeting at ALA in June, and the presentation slides are available here.

The GAMECIP team will continue work with OLAC, ALA, and the Library of Congress targeting remaining problem areas for video game metadata within existing library cataloging practice for the remaining period of the project.

Thanks to Greta de Groat from Stanford University Libraries for writing up this post!

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