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Big Stupid
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The Ethics of Emulation

by Big Stupid Mon Jan 18, 2010 6:29 pm

After many years of gaming, I have discovered or rather my kid brother discovered the Twilight Hack and we realized we could emulate games easily."is it right to play these games for free?" I asked myself. After all, getting something for nothing is technically stealing.

Having played Link's awakening, I like to consider myself an honest and ethical person, never having shoved any game down my trousers in Gamestop and attempted to furtively make my way away from the counter, to the exit while avoiding the gaze of the clerk. This was due to fear and guilt. Guilt, that if I leave the store I would receive a text based message asking if I was proud of myself. Fear, that if I would ever return to the store the owner would declare that he wasn't kidding when he told me to pay and that I would soon have to pay the ultimate price. You can really learn a lot from video games.

But emulation is different you see. It can be viewed as stealing by some but by others its merely a way to get free games that are no longer immediately commercially available. I realize that most people who emulate, similarly to those who download music illegally, wouldn't actually steal from an actual store for 2 reasons. The first is the risk of getting caught is significantly lower then if one was to swipe the game from the shelf. The second is the removal of the guilt because you're not actually taking away anything from anybody. If one was to take a game from the store. The store would lose money for the lost merchandise. In emulation nothing is being taken away so the notion of wrong doing is either heavily diluted or lost.

So is emulation really bad? It does cost the major game companies money especially now due to virtual console, X-box live arcade and the like. As a lifelong gamer, I feel guilt when I dig in the profits of the companies that gave me so much joy. As I look through my game collection, I get memories that will last a lifetime. I fiddle through my SNES collection and see genius and brilliance when I look at masterpieces like "Link to the Past" "Super Metroid" "Chrono Trigger" and "Zombies Ate My Neighbors." I could go on and on. Doesn't Nintendo deserve to make money off these Gems. Each one was well worth the $50 I spent back in the day shouldn't people today pay at least $8 for them.

I continue to scroll through my collection I see "Phantom 2040", "Mechwarrior", "Batman Forever". My contempt for the emulation community soon fades. I feel anger at the lost time and money I spent playing terrible games. I move on to my Genesis collection "Dark Castle" "Jurassic Park" "Revolution X". Frickin' Nintendo! Frickin' Sega. Making me buy such awful games. To remedy the ills done to me by these games (mostly Batman Forever) I can in now good conscience emulate one good game for every bad one I bought back in the day.

Shovelware... that's my justification for emulation.

What do you think about emulation? Is it stealing? Do you do have any qualms or guilt when you emulate games? If so how do you ameliorate it?
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Dylan
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Re: The Ethics of Emulation

by Dylan Mon Jan 18, 2010 6:37 pm

The one problem I've personally had with emulation is that it devalues gaming for me. A while after I started, I really stopped enjoying games, simply moving from one to the next without much discretion. Somewhat recently I got a PS2 and have rediscovered the satisfaction of purchasing and beating new games, rather than just downloading romsets and wandering around them. This is largely a personal matter, though I've heard others say similar things.
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Re: The Ethics of Emulation

by CRTGAMER Mon Jan 18, 2010 6:45 pm

Sometimes emulation is the only way to go to play the old Arcades.

Some great Arcade games would be lost if not for Mame.

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Last edited by CRTGAMER on Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Ethics of Emulation

by jp1 Mon Jan 18, 2010 6:50 pm

I look at it like this.

1. It is stealing.
2. If the game is available for purchase and the original publisher is going to get the money I won't pirate the game for anything other than trial.
3. If the game is only available on ebay or something I'm not too concerned with the ethics of downloading it.
4. There is far too much whining about issues like piracy of games/movies/music the industries are doing just fine and earning far more money than a lot of other people who work harder and work in worse conditions. I just can't feel sorry for rich people when it comes to finances. Independent games/movies/music on the other hand is a different story.

I hope that all the people who stand on soap boxes and preach about the ethics of piracy or anything else for that matter really take a long look in the mirror. Seriously, EVERYONE does some wrong shit and people go around flinging judgments like they are perfect.
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Re: The Ethics of Emulation

by MrPopo Mon Jan 18, 2010 6:57 pm

Let's dice it up a bit.

The first question is whether or not creating a program that emulates the functionality of old hardware is wrong. I don't think anyone would argue that this in-and-of itself is wrong. Just like it is fine for clones of old systems who's patents have run out to be sold, creating an emulator for those systems is just fine.

The second question is whether or not ROMs of retail games being played on these emulators is wrong. There are two ways to obtain these ROMs. The first is to dump your physical copy of the game onto your computer using specialized hardware. I personally do not see this as wrong, as you are merely making it more convenient to use software you have purchased. Similarly, I see no issue with ripping the ISO of your own games so you don't have to carry around a CD wallet or with ripping the tracks off that CD you got from Amazon. I'm even willing to say that downloading the ROM of a game you own off of an internet site is fine, because you lack the specialized hardware necessary.

The second method is to download the ROM and never purchase the game. Under the generally accepted views of intellectual property rights this is wrong. Personally I only use emulation to try out a game before I decide to add it to my collection, now that I can afford to get basically any game I want (barring getting a bunch of full arcade cabs). The other case where I still use emulation is to play translated copies of JP only games. However, I do purchase hard copies of whatever translated game I want to play to suit my own moral sense. I'm not even going to get into whether or not the current status quo with regards to IP rights is actually "correct" or not, because I haven't taken the time to really formulate an opinion on it.
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Re: The Ethics of Emulation

by Hatta Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:13 pm

I look at it this way. The purpose of copyright is to encourage the creation of new works. When there is no longer any creator to encourage, there is no valid purpose to copyright and no longer any reason to respect it.
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Dylan
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Re: The Ethics of Emulation

by Dylan Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:16 pm

Hatta wrote:The purpose of copyright is to encourage the creation of new works.

Not... really. The purpose of copyright is to give exclusive rights to the creator of a property for a certain time.
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arion
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Re: The Ethics of Emulation

by arion Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:23 pm

Without emulation i would have missed out on a lot of great games.

I never played any of the Castlevania games until i emulated Dracula X for the snes. And now im a fan of the series. Which led me to later buy the newer Metroidvania ones for the gba and ds.

The first Final Fantasy i played was FF3 for the Snes and that game led me to get a psx and FF7 - FF9.

Same goes for Phantasy Star i never got into those until i emulated Phanasy Star IV. And because of that i got Phantasy Star online for the Dc. And later i played a lot of Pso Blue Burst.

I also discovered Paper Mario for the N64 through emulation. And now i have bought it and got the sequel for the gamecube.

Not to mention all the nes games i discovered through emulation like Ninja Gaiden, Vice Project Doom and Blue Shadow to name a few.


And not once have i thought weather or not i am stealing those games if i own the console and i find a game i have emulated i usually buy it because i know i am getting a game i like.
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Re: The Ethics of Emulation

by JordanPlayer Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:25 pm

I personally don't mind using emulators to play games... however I will say as a collector that I do enjoy playing them on the original systems with the original controllers/hardware rather than playing them emulated on my PC (plus the HDTV helps out with screen size :)) All of the Roms I have downloaded I hand-picked due to good ratings, so I don't download a game unless it is worth it in the first place. This collection of Roms fuels my collection as every game was put on a list and is slowly being checked off as I purchase the hard-copy.

Another good thing for emulating is when it comes to Japan-only games; I have 0% understanding of the Japanese language and ROM translations are pretty much the only way I would be able to play some of these games.

I also view emulation as a very helpful way of backing up every single game in the video game catalog. If this wasn't happening some games could be lost through time as the physical copies are lost or fail. Also, DLC and download only games with no physical media will be lost over time; emulation digitizes these items and allows them to be preserved.

On the bad side, emulating seemed to make me play older games less... since I didn't pay for it there wasn't a push to actually play the games. Now that I am buying them I actually play quite a few older games and have pushed to play new series.
Last edited by JordanPlayer on Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Ethics of Emulation

by Hatta Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:26 pm

Dylan wrote:
Hatta wrote:The purpose of copyright is to encourage the creation of new works.

Not... really. The purpose of copyright is to give exclusive rights to the creator of a property for a certain time.


No, that's the definition of copyright. The reason we give exclusive rights to the creator is "to promote the progress of science and useful arts".
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