Discussion: Emulation

Now and again I like to write debates about topics I often see floating around, so I figured that I'll put them up here and see what you readers think. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment box below.

Today's topic is: Emulation

If you're a fan of video games and have spent a somewhat respectable amount of time talking on forums or gaming websites, you may have come across the issue of 'emulation'. Despite the questionable legality of the topic, note that this is not a discussion about how and/or where to emulate and/or access copyrighted material, but a discussion on the ethics surrounding the subject.

Allow me to explain: emulation, in video game terms, is the process of using a program that mimics a console and playing games using a program. Now because of the fact that these programs are ran on computers, they are very often used alongside piracy as they use ROM images from the game cart (or in the case of discs, ISO files). This means for many people emulation is piracy, but as far as I'm aware this isn't true (if I'm wrong then teach me why). Many emulators of disc-based consoles (such as the PS1) are capable of running the physical games though a computer's disc drive. In certain countries, it is legal to make back-up copies of games you own.

Regardless of this matter of legality, emulation provides many benefits: one can improve the game experience in ways such as upgrading the visuals to HD; games that were never previously translated can now be, due to the dedication of fans; ROM hacking is now incredibly easy, and can result in the fixing of bugs, the simple improvement of games, and even entirely new games created, just like modding in PC games.

I personally have no problem with emulation in some circumstances, such as with fan translations of games like Mother 3, which would otherwise be almost impossible to play in my country. Similarly I think emulation is fine with older games which would now be only purchasable on Ebay, since in those cases no one benefits from you buying a real copy, and often tracking down a legitimate copy is extremely hard, making emulation by far the easier course of action.

Emulation can be bad though, as people use this process with current gen consoles even though they could buy the game new. The R4 card (allowing people to download DS or 3DS games for free) being a good example of this because it actually hurts the retailer and gives the term 'Emulation' a bad name. Buying a R4 card and getting the games for free sounds good right? Wrong. R4 cards are rather unstable and frequently suffers from corruption. Picture getting deep into a game like Pokemon and then losing all the hard work you put in. Personally I would rather buy a quality product and have fun, rather than download it and suffer from loss of data.

Emulation can either help or destroy the games industry, especially considering old games, which are no longer in production. It's up to the users how they handle it. I hope most people will put it to good use, allowing people like me to finally enjoy Mother 3 or playing Wind Waker in stunning 1080p.