Emulation Saves Two Classic Games

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
| The video game industry has gone from a mole hill to a mountain in no time flat, Chris DiMarco is your Sherpa as you endeavor to scale Mount “Everquest”

Emulation Saves Two Classic Games

Depending on who you ask, emulation is one of two things: a great way to keep large numbers of classic games in one place readily, or a massive crime spree in the making. However, some are starting to wonder if there might not be a third answer: a way to save the classic games of the past. That recently got a new look as two classic games were preserved thanks to emulation.

The games in question were the Dreamcast port of Millennium Racer: Y2K Fighters--which was actually previously unheard of; only its PC version was widely released--as well as the unusual sequel to a fighting game that took advantage of Mortal Kombat's popularity, Primal Rage 2.

Millennium Racer's prospect was simple enough: a futuristic racer that was mostly ignored, despite the fact that it was geared to be in the vein of several much-better received titles like Wipeout and F-Zero X. Primal Rage 2, meanwhile, featured brawling dinosaurs battling for the future of post-apocalyptic Earth.

While the current conventional wisdom at the developer level says that emulation is nothing but another form of video piracy, and the kind of thing that could inevitably cost the industry its very life, another side notes that this is the last real line of defense between old games and complete loss. Reports note that around 75 percent of all silent films ever made have been lost, and if video games are ever to proceed as art, then we have to bear some consideration for the works of the past.

I've been on this soapbox before, particularly with the issue of abandonware. Dozens, even hundreds, of games that once existed are now virtually impossible to find, their rights buried in a tangle of corporate intrigue on par with a Sax Rohmer novel. If emulation and abandonware are all stifled by interdictory lawsuits, then we inevitably lose. Sure, some might say, some loss--the video gaming community won't be able to play a shoddy sequel to a game about dinosaurs brawling for the fate of their post-apocalyptic murder cults. But Primal Rage is just one example of the games out there that are not only no longer playable, but no longer even known about. How many gamers today even know about the various Dungeons and Dragons titles released? I was alive during Primal Rage's arcade days, but even I had forgotten it had a sequel. Dozens of other major arcade players are utterly unavailable now, and all because it would represent a difficult business decision to either upgrade these titles to the modern era or potentially risk a rights disaster.

Perhaps we would do better as a society to shorten the length of copyright in some cases. By turning rights issues over to the people directly, companies would no longer be able to shut away "unprofitable" properties from the handful of users who would still have an interest. We would be able to preserve our forgotten titles for posterity, and all video game companies would have to do is give up the rights to titles they really don't want anyway because there's no profit in them. It's an idea worth considering, as the video game movement becomes just as much art as business. Let's learn from the early days of film and start working to preserve our gaming legacy on a wider scale.

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