Retrogaming can be an expensive hobby. I curse my younger self, foolish in his hubris, for selling off my Sega Genesis and my collection of 40+ games, in order to help pay for books in my first semester of college. It turns out, of course, I would have been fine if I had just held off two weeks, but I didn’t think I needed them, since I hadn’t played my system in years. Unfortunately, knowing nowadays how much all of that equipment would really be worth, it pains me. This is in addition to my interest in retrogaming, along with no longer having access to the system I grew up using.
I also took pretty good care of my Genesis, so it was in perfect working condition back in 2004 when I sold it, along with the games, two six button controllers and two three button original controllers.
So now, as an adult in a job where I can afford to get by, and am saving money to buy a home… I don’t have nearly as much free money to spend on my hobbies as I would like. This is where emulation comes in: while I want to buy an original Sega Genesis system to rekindle the nostalgia of childhood to play games as they were meant to be played, with appropriate sound and the right video quality, it’s just not feasible at this point in my life.
This, and lazy convenience are the top reasons I’ve found that people emulate, from people I’ve spoken to on the subject matter.
Reading through the internet, I have found that people do, with good reason, prefer the original cartridges and systems for gaming on older systems. I don’t want to build up a straw man to try to knock down here, so I won’t. I will say that I’ve seen the prevailing opinion being that emulation is for e-hoarding: owning a rom of every game that’s ever existed leads to never playing any of them, on top of the loss of quality. I’ll be the first to admit that the timing is off on almost every game, as well, even if it’s by a few milliseconds.
It is, however, affordable. If you are mildly tech savvy and can take basic precautions, it’s also simple to grab emulators and roms, in order to either get back to playing some of those old games.
Shopping for retrogaming systems and cartridges can not only get expensive, but time consuming. Part of the fun is in the chase, mind you – digging around in old hobby shops and videogame stores, flea markets and secondhand stores, trying to find titles that you are looking for, or just a game you don’t have. This can be a variable from person to person whether it’s a pro or a con, but for many collectors, the fun is in the chase.
There are a multitude of good controller facsimiles out there to old systems (most notably for this last holiday season, my wife was given an SNES remote that plugs into a USB port). While there are as many bad ones as good, the recreated hardware is pretty affordable compared to buying originals, and finding good reviews isn’t difficult.
Nevermind the controllers – there are plenty of good copies of older systems. I sadly can’t attest to how good or bad they are, but I have been tempted on more than one occasion to at least start my collection by grabbing one of these systems. Some of the ones that have decent reviews can even play a multitude of the old system cartridges out of different areas, not just a single system. Those tend to be a bit riskier and of poorer quality, but the idea is a good one.
Were it not for emulation, many of the games that have been recommended to me, or that I’ve read about on the internet, wouldn’t even be close to available for me. Whether through rarity or just a lack of access to the game cartridges, it helps to be able to get your hands on a rom of a game to play it before you buy a copy.
I will admit that their is a darker side of emulation. Pirating more modern systems can be problematic for companies. @The3rdPlayer even reminded me of it the other night while he was playing Hyrule Warriors. I bemoaned this trend in modern games to have pay-for-content updates, and he reminded me that the videogame companies lose out on money for products, not just the chain stores reselling old games.
While it does have it’s problems, I do think that it’s an important stepping stone towards getting into the hobby. For those lacking in funds like myself, it’s a helpful placeholder. In a perfect world, everyone would be able to access older games, and have access to working systems. Until that perfect world comes to be, I think it’s only fair to allow for emulation in the meantime, without looking down on those who resort to it.