The High Seas of Emulation
I am a little lost in the tidal waters of emulation and the piracy that surrounds it. I never used to be, I was always in the ‘It’s fine!' camp but things have changed considerably of late with a massive influx of mini-consoles from SEGA, Sony, Nintendo, NEC etc plus the additions from SNK, Capcom and the licensed full sized cabs that are out there now. Throw in the AntStream service and, well, piracy IS a service problem and there is no problem with the retro gaming service anymore. We can now legally purchase many of the best games and play them on well made hardware and applications so are we justified to pirate roms still?
It isn’t an easy question to answer, and trust me when I say that whilst I do pay for legitimate retro gaming in many ways, from the aforementioned mini-consoles and the AntStream app I still pirate some games be they old or new. The new stuff I really do ‘try before I buy’ and if I really enjoy a new game I WILL purchase it, though many times it is when the sales come around. As a PC gamer for many years, sales are key to many of my enjoyments. Retro however is harder. You can purchase it and as already stated I do pay for a lot of it and I do feel better as a person when playing something legit that gives the IP owners some money, even if the IP owner is now a chip shop in Wolverhampton and had nothing to do with the game. They own it, they should get something for it, simple.
So what is the problem? The problem is FOMO…
The Fear Of Missing Out. Let me be honest here, if you suffer from FOMO you are basically a selfish shit who thinks the World owes them something and… here is the downer, we all feel this way over something and we justify piracy because of it. “It won’t hurt anyone”, “the real Devs don’t make money from this anymore”, “Who the hell cares now!?”. I’ll tell you who cares, the people we are ripping off. Like it or not, and most will not like it at all, piracy is taking money from the hands that we are supposed to be respecting. We play that pirated retro game because we love it, it was our childhood, we cared about this game for fucks sake and… Well it seems we care less than we think we do, because we do not care that they do not get paid despite all our professed love for the developers otherwise we would pay them! For the record, “I bought the game 30 years ago!” does not count. I am not preaching here, every single excuse above has been given by myself over time too and I feel bad about it but guess what, I still do it.
So, I made myself and maybe some of you feel bad. I probably made some of you mad that I dare tell the truth, which is a good thing because it means like me, you also care. But what do we do about it? How do we fix it? Easy solution, stop thinking you need to own every single game ever created and stick to the ones that are out there in various legally and morally available solutions. Think you can do that? Yeah, me either damnit. The simple truth is that despite all the solutions available there are some things we still want to play that we will probably never be able too legally. Licensing issues abound for one thing. I know a little something about trying to aquire a license for retro games. I am still trying to get myself the rights to Deathchase on the ZX Spectrum by Mervyn Estcourt and it seems like the game and the dev have both fell in to a black hole. The publishers know nothing, the dev has dropped off the face of the Planet and the chances of me grabbing this are roughly zero. So, does this make it OK to pirate it? If no money can go to the dev or publisher, if the rights to the game are seemingly out in the wilds of nowhere and nobody is getting ripped off, is this OK? If we say yes, what happens when Mervyn pops up and says “OI! Gimmie my monies!”? I feel as if what I am about to say is one of the many excuses we already used above but, I think this is allowed? Am I just doing what I accused you and myself of doing anyway?
I think there are no solutions to all of the quandaries I have raised but perhaps whilst we cannot solve everything in a legal matter we can at least be, mostly, morally decent. I do my best to purchase legal roms. I supplement them with illegal ones but I do not feel a need to have every game ever made just to have them. It’s the best I can do and I feel it is all I can do without never playing some of the games I really enjoyed and I promise when a real solution to ALL retro gaming comes around I will support it!
I am Hitch, I stream games on twitch and I LOVE retro gaming. I am a pirate, and I feel bad about it.