ComiKate wrote:Forgive me my no doubt somewhat silly question, but what exactly is game emulation?
There is software you can load on your computer that will emulate a game console or arcade. Say, for example, I want to play the old arcade Centipede. I don't want a game *like* Centipede, but I want to play the real, original game. I can either hit eBay or Craig's List and find the original arcade or I can download what's called a "ROM" of the game. (ROM stands for Read-Only Memory and you can think of it as the "hard drive" of the old arcades. They would burn the game into this memory or a cartridge for consoles and that's where the actual program would live.) So you can download actual ROM's of the old video games and the emulation software "tricks" the program into thinking it's running on the appropriate hardware. So with this combination you are able to play the actual code of the original game in all it's glory...not some cheap knock-off.
People go to great lengths sometimes and build wooden cabinets similar to the old arcades, and house a PC inside it with a monitor facing up so it looks and feels very much like the old arcades. On that single machine you can play all the games you wanted.
There are emulators for arcades and pretty much all the old consoles.
From what I understand, the legality is kinda grey for a couple reasons. I am going from past knowledge and am not able to provide any links right now. But generally speaking you have to have legally bought the game -- so you actually own a copy of the game -- in order to use a ROM. The web sites that provide the ROMs of course have no way to verify that you actually own the game so you could in actuality download all the ROMs and not own any of them.
Some say that 1) these are all old games so the producers have already made all their money, 2) they're not going to care, or 3) they're not going to be able to catch you. While these may address that you may not get *caught*, they don't really address is it right or not. In my mind, it's the same thing as speeding: as Christians we should do what's lawful regardless of whether we will get caught or not. And going 36 in a 35 zone is just as illegal as going 60 in a 35 zone.
The copyright laws require for something to be really old before it's public domain and freely available. The limit is something like 90 years so it doesn't apply to even the oldest games yet. The grey area comes in that in some cases the companies are not around any more for you to be *able* to purchase the game. Sometimes the company was bought by another company, but sometimes it just doesn't exist any more. IMHO, these would be OK to emulate -- again not having any link to back that up. But my thinking is because the intent of the law is to protect the rights of the producers of the game. If those producers are no longer around, I don't see whom we are protecting by restricting it.
I know that's not exactly what you are looking for, Paeter, but there's my opinion and I think it's a fairly well informed one based on back in the day when I used to be into this. I was doing it quite a bit, but stopped once I looked into the legal stuff.