The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation has launched an initiative to preserve the legacy of video game pioneers.

It’s another step in the recognition of video games as an art form. The Videogame Pioneers Initiative will preserve gaming history through extensive oral histories and preservation of original documents and other materials. Christopher Weaver, the chairman of the Videogame Pioneers Initiative Advisory Board, made the announcement today at the DICE Summit, the elite game industry event in Las Vegas.

He said the idea is to capture compelling personal stories in the words of the people who lived them and to trace the development of an industry that employs 220,000 Americans, generates $102 billion in worldwide sales, and has influenced fields as diverse as computer learning and medicine.

“We have lost some important voices like Ralph Baer, who started it all, but most of the pioneers are still alive,” Weaver said.

This Initative is also the first phase of a larger effort to create opportunities for the public to experience the history of gaming over the last fifty years through physical and virtual exhibitions with collaborating museums around the world.

An initial video shown by the Smithsonian included interviews with game pioneers Steve Russell, Peter Samson, Brenda Laurel, Richard Garriott, and Don Daglow.

“This is our legacy,” he said. “Let us make history together.”