The Grey Area Behind Emulators

There is a grey area for these types of video games in the modern era. Some people are against the use of emulators while some are for them and love to download all of the old classic retro video games from the late 20th century.

For those who don’t quite know what they are, emulators are essentially programs that are used to mimic a certain device on a computer (PlayStation 2, Gameboy Advance, Nintendo 64, etc.) to play a wide collection of video games files on the internet which are called, Read-Only Memory (ROM.)

ROMs are file formats that are used for games. Take for example a Pokémon Red Version ROM would be the file format of the Pokémon Red Version game. Think of the emulator as the system and ROMs are the games you wish to play.

Emulators are legal to download and use to your own leisure, but downloading ROMs is technically illegal in the judicial world. Emulators don’t violate any law, while ROMs violate copyright laws.

The only way that you are legally able to have a ROM file of a game is if one the said ROM is released to the public domain by the owner who owns the copyright, two the owner sold or gave you the copyright to the game, three the copyright has expired, which is 75 years after its publication date, which no video game in this century has reached or four the file is an archival copy that you have created for the purposes of backing it up, it can’t be downloaded.

You can theoretically be sued for downloading ROMs but not arrested or charged of any crime since it is just a civil issue and not a criminal one. Now, if you redistribute said copyright software without authorization, that’s where the potential criminal charges can come into play.

What is my opinion on this matter? I believe emulation is probably one of the best things ever created for the gaming community. I have played a multitude of games from ROM websites just so I can play the classic Nintendo 64 games that are not as easily obtainable now. Having to go through the process of purchasing a system that has been discontinued from the past decade and getting an outdated television set just to play that one game is too tedious in my opinion. Old hardware is built like a brick, but after 20 plus years of having it stowed away in your closet, you are bound to run into some technical issues.

I had never had the chance to play through the Kingdom Hearts series when I was a small child. I had heard great things about these games and read positive reviews but for some reason I never got the time to get to that game.

This past Summer I decided I wanted to dive into this game title. I searched for my PlayStation 2 in my parent’s outdoor shed but did not find it anywhere. I looked in every corner of the shed and did not find one trace of the PS2. My dad sadly broke the truth to me that he had shipped that game system, along with other games to my cousins in Mexico. So much for having a fun afternoon. I was thus left with two options, go online and place an order for an old PlayStation 2 console and wait two weeks for it to get to my house, or use an emulator and download the ROM on a website I trust in less than a minute. Of course I went with the latter and had a splendid time in the world of Kingdom Hearts that weekend.

I could tell you that you should not download ROMs since it is not legal, but in the end, you can do whatever you want with your computer. I am for downloading older games in the 80s and 90s era, but if you emulate a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 game on your computer, then that is a whole different story. It’s not hard to purchase one of those systems from your local video game store. It’s a system that is still easily available in stores that don’t require a special order from across the world to get. Use emulators for convenience and not to save you a few extra dollars.

Emulators are cool and a fun way to dive into some nostalgia but be smart and thoughtful about it.

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