Emulation of video games is far from a new topic, and talks about its morals have been beaten to death. But whenever I see these arguments, they seem very one-sided. Either it’s completely fine or is absolutely not. What you don’t hear much are the opinions of those in the middle ground, probably because they don’t care about arguing it.
Almost everyone out there has probably touched an emulator at some point in their life, including me. Once they find out the moral issues behind it, depending on the person, they tend to shun the emulation scene. I, for the most part, pretty much did exactly that. Almost every game I’ve played within the last 10 years have been on either the original console itself or through rereleases on other platforms. I only have two exceptions, one of which you can find out pretty easily by looking through my review history.
But as I’ve started purchasing titles further and further back in video game history, I’m starting to wonder if I should loosen up a bit.
A handful of titles I’ve taken interest in are fairly difficult to obtain. Probably one of the best examples is Earthbound (oh boy, my first two Chitter Chatters both mention the Mother series). I just checked Ebay and a cartridge for the North American version is anywhere between $60 to $100, adding in the box and manual dramatically increases the price. Signs of a Virtual Console release aren’t looking great either. Rumor has it that the title has fallen into some legal issues from all of its references and parodies, which would possibly get Nintendo into a bit of legal trouble if released today.
While $60 isn’t a price unfamiliar to gamers, it is a bit much for a title released fifteen years ago. On top of that, not a single penny goes to the creators of the game. It’s all just going to some store or some guy on the internet. Is there any reason to feel guilty for not giving them $60? Probably not.
While some will some will defend emulating older games because the company no longer makes money off the title, the recent immersion of digital content is changing that argument. Old titles, big and small, are appearing all over Nintendo’s Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, and PlayStation Network. Companies are starting to profit from a lot of these older games again. Sure, a lot of older titles will probably never be rereleased. But on the flip side, there are a lot of titles that are preparing for their rebirth.
If you do decide to start playing games via emulation, probably the best question to ask yourself before hand is “who am I hurting by doing this?” If the answer includes a video game publisher or developer, you probably shouldn’t. But if the only person you are hurting is some guy online who needs some extra cash to feed his WoW addiction, you probably are good on emulating the game.
If Bobby Kotick is on that list, emulate it just to screw him over.