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GOG: Preserving Gaming’s Past & Future Documentary Review

GOG: Preserving Gaming’s Past & Future is the latest entry in the series of free Noclip YouTube video game documentaries. While all of the Noclip documentaries in their already impressive archives are pretty great (especially since they are free), this documentary on game preservationist and distribution company GOG might be one of the best yet on the channel. Game preservation/modernization and distribution is not a commonly talked about subject but for those of you interested in the topic (like me), GOG: Preserving Gaming’s Past & Future does a very good job of covering it. There are a few things the documentary could have done better but this is likely the premiere documentary on video game preservation on the internet (which is partially due to it being one of the only documentaries on the topic that I know about).

GOG: Preserving Gaming’s Past & Future has a run time of 42 minutes, which is somewhat short for a Noclip documentary but for a niche subject like this it was probably a good idea to keep the documentary short and sweet. As usual for Noclip, the documentary is almost completely composed of interviews with a handful of company executives with some B-roll footage of various retro games GOG has resurrected. While it may just be B-roll, there are definitely some very nostalgic clips for me, especially Theme Hospital and Theme Park (and I’m sure there will be footage from at least one game you remember from your childhood as well). The one complaint I have with this documentary is that this would have been the perfect one to shake up the usual Noclip format for. While I have no idea if this was possible or not, it would have been very interesting to see 15 minutes or so of footage of the team actually working on fixing problems and getting a game ready to launch on the site. Instead, we just hear about the process and don’t really get to see any of it.

For those who don’t know, GOG is an online digital games store owned by CD Projekt Red (Noclip also did a six-part documentary series on them late last year) that specializes in classic PC gaming. For every game they get their hands on, they modernize them and fix bugs to get them running again and working on newer operating systems. GOG: Preserving Gaming’s Past & Future covers the history of the company, starting with CD Projekt Red’s early days as a game distributor (an idea that would eventually lead to GOG). They started just after the fall of Communism in Poland, a time when piracy was running rampant and the only way to beat the pirates was to make a product worth the extra money. Most of the time is spent explaining the laborious process of bringing a game to GOG’s marketplace. Some games take years to simply figure out who owns the rights (since sometimes multiple parties own partial rights to the material meaning GOG almost has to act like a detective agency at times), then they have to secure the rights, find the source code, and overcome bugs to make the games compatible on current day operating systems. There are a lot of interesting tidbits provided and I certainly learned a thing or two about game distribution and modernization.

Overall, GOG: Preserving Gaming’s Past & Future is certainly worth watching, especially since it is available for free on YouTube (though consider donating to the Noclip Patreon if able to). While I think it would have been interesting to watch the process of a game getting fixed up for release instead of just hearing about it, other than that the documentary is great. Outside of Noclip’s very first documentary about Rocket League (since it’s one of my favorite games of all-time I’m a little biased towards it), I would say it is one of the best documentaries on the channel. Recommended.