Emulation. We’re all familiar with it, aren’t we? Is it ethical? Is it necessary? There is no straight answer to this issue. The way I see emulation is that it depends on game and the scenario.
The Earthbound Conundrum
We all know those games from years ago, their consoles discontinued, the games never re-released. My example is Earthbound, but this would even apply to the likes of Pokémon Red and Blue, etc.
In this case, these games can only be purchased pre-owned. Whilst I advocate the secondhand market, I see emulation as perfectly acceptable in this case, the developers and publishers will not benefit from you buying a secondhand copy of the game.
If you’re like me however, you will go out of your way to acquire the older games and their systems. The trouble is, old technology and new technology is like a marriage that ended sourly and they haven’t spoken since – sometimes there are… problems with the technology. And that is why piracy wins this case.
Piracy and emulation can be very easily defeated, look at Steam. Steam is successful as it provides an easier service than piracy. That’s what it comes down to, practically all piracy can be ended if it is easier to obtain something legally, then it is to pirate it. Piracy is a service problem, convenience is everything, provide a simpler, easier service than the pirates, and you’ll defeat them.
Which brings me back to Earthbound. It would cost me £200+ to obtain Earthbound legally, that involves getting a US SNES and a working cartridge and shipping it from America, which could take weeks, and what if the game or console are faulty! Or I could use Google and have it in half an hour, max. I’d like to point out, because I don’t pirate games – ever – I have never played Earthbound. I bought a Nintendo 64 just so I could play Pokémon Stadium and Superman 64.
The legacy game publishers and developers, such as Nintendo, need to adjust to a rapidly changing world or be left in the dark – and they need to change now. Renegade Kid have the right idea, their new PC port of Mutant Mudds, Mutant Mudds: Grannie Edition, will be available for around $10 through several online distribution sites, including their own online store. And it’ll be DRM-free, meaning there will be no silly issues with codes sent through emails if you ever change your computer. DRM (Digital Rights Management) is another topic I’ll touch on another time, and not just in gaming, but in practically all media.
The Let’s Players Perspective
In my interests, Emulation only comes into the equation here. Many Let’s Players strive for good quality. I know the feeling when you’ve bought an old game and an old console, spent literal hours trying to figure out how to make a recording work, let alone in a high quality, and to have your efforts throw back at you like some dirty dishcloth (Pokémon Stadium, if you’re wondering).
And of course there are the consoles with no real official way of recording from them properly, the Nintendo 3DS, for example. Illegal modification is also another topic I’ll touch on later too. In this case, I see Emulation as perfectly acceptable. But if I was to ever do this, I would have one condition, I must own the game, and be able to play it legitimately.
Another idea to consider is those games not released in your regions; Earthbound, Ace Attorney Investigations 2, Professor Layton’s London Life (the 100 Hour Bonus RPG that Nintendo of Europe cut out of Professor Layton and the Spectre’s Call…
The situation changes for every game, and every gamer. Games cost money, to make and to buy. What if someone is a die-hard fan of something, they’ve bought, played and promoted the last twenty games but can’t afford the twenty-first. Do they have the right to pirate it?
There are no right answers to this issue. My ideas aren’t the authority on what should and shouldn’t be done. Everyone’s view is different, and that’s why this is such an interesting topic to write about. In a few more years I could revisit this and have a totally different opinion and that’s the beauty of it.
Editorial: This doesn’t relate to the issue at hand, but earlier I mentioned I have recording issues with Pokémon Stadium, so I’d like to share them with you. The game would change it’s aspect ration at a certain point in gameplay, which causes both my capture cards to alter the video, unintentionally splitting it into three disorganised segments on the screen. This isn’t something I can avoid as it is a crucial part of the gameplay, thus, a Let’s Play of Pokémon Stadium is highly unlikely to ever happen. Which is sad. And no, I won’t emulate it as the whole point of Pokémon Stadium is that it connects with Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow. So I couldn’t do the Let’s Play I want if I emulate anyway.