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The Evolution of Emulation

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With E3 this week and seeing whats in store for the future, my mind starts drifting to the question "but how will we conserve the past"? I'm a very grass roots kind of guy and I believe you can't know where you're going until you see where you've been. The retro era of video games, as well as the last decade, are all a part of our gaming history and it would be a shame to have our kids growing up not know what Pac-man was or even that the NES was something that changed how people played video games forever. And whenever I think of playing old era games, my mind always goes to one place: emulators.

For those of you not in middle school during the late 1990's, emulators are programs designed to read and play software taken from already made video games that someone has downloaded to their computer and distributed. In other words, emulators allow you to play video games, even video games they don't make anymore, on your computer. For Free. Now I can hear some of you saying "whoa whoa whoa, I am an upstanding citizen and video game industry supporter, how dare you speak of piracy in my presence!" to you people I say two things. First, put down your broad sword and mead and stop talking like a noble lord. Seriously, its just embarrassing. Secondly I'm not saying emulation is necessarily good for the industry or that it should be supported at all. However let's just agree that it is still around in some form or another and the technology isn't going anywhere for a while. Okay? good. Now maybe it is just me but lately I've been seeing a lot of my friends getting smart phones, I'm sure this is happening to you as well, or maybe it is you, either way phones are getting better, smarter, faster. It doesn't take a rocket science degree to predict that eventually our phones will do everything for us. What do phones have to do with emulators you ask? Well apparently everything considering the great and bored nerds of the world, aka hackers, have found a way to make your favorite Super Nintendo game just one finger touch away on your own phone. It was just the other day my friend was playing Zelda: A Link to the Past on his iphone and I was a bit shocked. "Why hasn't anyone jumped on this?" I thought to myself, "Steve Jobs should be planning his master plan to take over the known universe right now with this information!" clearly I am a bit out of the loop considering this technology has been around for a while now and I'm just now realizing its potential. And I think thats exactly what it has, potential.

With an emulator, the games of the old era, the old generation, can be saved and passed on in the form of a user friendly environment. Some of the best, or even worst, games of the past centuries can become the influence and inspiration of later ones. As I mentioned before I'm not condoning the pirating of licensed material (arrrr) what I am saying is that the potential of this technology to not only preserve our roots as gamers, but to branch out to a new demographic is astounding. Think about a phone company, any company, pairing up with Nintendo to produce the next Super Mario game. Stuff like this is already happening. Square Enix released a game for the ipod not too long ago that may not have done that well but at least they tried! Potential is what I am talking about. I believe that phones are the future and that in the future gaming will evolve into a cultural necessity and that emulators, or at least the technology will be the future of how we introduce this concept to the masses.

Lightsout Writer

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  1. Dhalamar's Avatar
    I still kinda remember when I got into emulation. It was a REALLY early Game Boy emulator I stumbled across on an FTP site in about '96 or so. :P

    Then went on to join Emucult (which I still use the AIM handle I made when I was there) ... then went on to Zophar's Domain (I had to sign a 2 page fucking contract for that site, and when you hit up the homebrew/public domain ROMs I'm the reason they're there), Emuunlim, PSXEmu, Retrogames, was an op in #retrogamers on EFNet for a long time ... and ran the biggest (at the time) public domain ROMs site on the web. Not the prettiest mind you, but was definitely the biggest because I was worried about screenshots or any of that mess. You got the filename and a link to it and that was about it. :P

    Saw the rise of PS1 emulation ... remembering going apeshit over seeing intro screens for Mortal Kombat 3. :P Saw the rise of Game Boy Advance emulation, of which there were actually emulators out BEFORE the system was even launched.

    And when CPS2Shock started decrypting the CPS2 games. *drool*

    And the short lived Corn N64 emulator that used a different emulation method that made Mario 64 run full speed on my old 200mhz Cyrix with 64MB of RAM and a 2MB ATI Rage video card. Of course the trade off to that speed was the fact that it only ran about 15 games at best.

    Kinda got out of the scene overall back in 2001 when my daughter was born and I got married, and that scene I personally remember is pretty much dead nowadays. :\

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