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Emulation and Its Importance

Author: Isaac Donnelly
06-Mar-2019

Category: Opinion

Just how important is Emulation to the preservation of gaming history? What even is Emulation? We look at these questions and others in this article.

Emulation and Its Importance

A good amount of people in the gaming community, especially retro/older gamers, have at least heard about emulation, but if you haven't, emulation is basically a way to play games, typically older games, on systems that the games weren't made for, such as SNES games on your laptop, or other things generally like that.

I won't be touching on specific sites that distribute ROM and ISO files, though you can easily look up those things on your own and I can't stop you. In any case, Neither I nor Keengamer condone piracy and such other things.

Now, since that is all out of the way, why should you tolerate emulation? or at least allow it?

Obviously an article specifically about how emulation isn’t all that bad, there are the legal/ethical problems that should be touched on. Legal issues such as ROMs/ISO files are basically illegal (if you don’t own the thing, of course), as shown by the Lawsuit for $12.2 Million by Nintendo against the owners of LoveRoms.com/LoveRetro.co, Nintendo who have of course had a history of being especially against outside sources emulating their games in general. So, generally, why is emulation considered a taboo in the gaming community?

The answer to that question is piracy. Piracy is essentially an unauthorized use of someone else’s work, like if I was to post a full film I do not own the rights to online for anyone to download or stream I would be doing something very illegal. Emulation in itself is kind of a grey area, seeing as how the applications for emulating in themselves are typically legal (as shown by the court case with Sony Versus Bleem over the Bleemcast Software) but not using some borderline illegal ROMs you can easily download off of the internet would make an emulator nearly useless if it can’t run anything, right? After all, Sites like Loveroms and Emuparadise Being either forcibly removed or pre-emptively removing their ROMs because of the possibility of retaliation from companies like Nintendo.

Well, if you don’t want to break, or at least bend, the law, that can be where ROM hacks come in, which are technically legal because the changed ROM file technically isn’t the same game, even if it is essentially based on the game it is built around, things like Pokemon ROM hacks are a good example of this. ROM hacks are actually really good for things like translations of older games like Shin Megami Tensei for the Famicom in English, or just general quality of life updates, in fact ROM hacks and mods in general breed creativity and lower the bar of entry into game development by a massive amount, things like Team Fortress and Counter-Strike started as just simple mods in other games, but I digress, this is about emulation, not mods! Moving on.

In spite of ROMs and ISOs themselves being in a kind of moral/legal grey area, why does a good portion of the gaming community support emulation? Some argue that emulation is almost necessary to be able to play classic games without the sometimes outrageous pricing of classics or rare games no one besides a specific breed of collector would be interested in actually owning a physical copy of, and with the point of outrageously priced older games and destructive things such as Disc rot comes the fact that emulation may be the main, if not only, way to truly preserve gaming history.

In fact, emulation is touted by official companies in ways like PSone classics on a PlayStation 3 or the more recent NES/SNES/Playstation classic consoles that are glorified emulator boxes with a few preloaded games, not too much unlike a Raspberry pi running RetroPie.

Basically, emulation is good for the preservation of gaming history, whether you’re aware/approving of it or not, it's true



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