Why I do my retro gaming on emulators while still collecting original hardware

It’s quite simple really gaming should be platform agnostic and above all it should be about enjoying the games we play. I love owning original physical hardware in almost all cases. For me it’s partially about owning a piece of history. There is something amazing about having a thing sitting in your house that existed in the past. It connects me to the history of gaming and I enjoy that very much. But there is another side to it.

I like to own physical things  because it takes me back in time. I was born in 1982. This means I grew up in a world that had digital goods released on physical platforms. We called it the digital age back then. Of course by today’s standards some might refer to it as the stone age, with good reason.

Collecting and gaming are two different things. You see as a toy collector I absolutely must play with my toys. I am not a shelf collector. I paid hundreds of dollars for a boxed original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Mega Zord set only to open the  box and assemble the team. I have to touch the toys I own.

This is not necessarily the case for video games.

Even when I was a kid I was a PC gamer. If I had to rank my gaming priorities it was arcade first, PC second, console distant third. The reason was simple. Even back then you could trade games with a friend and if you knew what you were doing it was easy to make copies of games (even if it was sometimes shady to do so) and swap those with others. We treated the software as just that, an intangible digital program we could erase and replace at will as needed. Games were disposable. If you wanted to save it for good you made a hard copy. In the early days it was tape or floppy disk, later it was CD, then DVD-ROM. By the time hard drives and flash memory came on the scene PC gamers like myself were decades into moving digital files from one format to the next. Each time we bought a new computer we immediately went through the painstaking process of getting our software ported over.

Once emulation came along most PC gamers didn’t bat an eye. For those writing the software that made emulation possible it was about preserving the specs, the software and the knowledge. For those of us who had a computer hungry for software we just needed to feed our PC’s as much new software as we could get our hands on. For me, I didn’t see a rom set of Super NES games as digital copies of Super Nintendo games, I saw them as PC software I had to have. Games I had to play.

Every single PC gamer on the planet has done their share of what could be considered piracy. It’s what we do. Sometimes we find legal ways or gray areas to accomplish our end goal but in the end it’s all about selfishly hoarding as much electronic interactive entertainment as we can muster.

Now every console loyalist is going to scream piracy or authenticity if you say you game using emulation. Sure let them cry all day long. There are those who try to claim owning a physical copy justifies or allows for the having a digital  back up. Technically under the DMCA yes that is true. But not entirely. Then there are those who say it’s only okay if you rip the rom yourself. This is not entirely accurate either.

The worst is when you have those who say you’re better off buying physical copies of retro games because it supports the publishers. Um no, if I buy a used copy of Contra on the NES that money is going into the hands of John Doe not anyone that had anything to do with the creation of said game.

Those same loyalists might say maybe it’s about supporting  your local game store. Again nope. I can buy whatever they have for sale sure, but at the same time it is their responsibility to provide a product I am willing to buy at a price I am comfortable with.

For me I will always prefer gaming on my PC. I see playing Super NES Roms using an emulator as the same as playing the PC version of certain games. And yes even though I do have a physical copy of Mortal Kombat on Genesis that hasn’t stopped me from purchasing the PC version fro GoG.com, on top of purchasing the digital version of Mortal Kombat Kollection on PS3. And that is on top of buying Midways Arcade Treasures physical copies for both the PS2 and GameCube.

At the end of the day I will always be a PC gamer and a console collector. I think it is perfectly acceptable to be both as far as I am concerned they are one and the same. Stay cool.