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-- b i o --
Donald Melanson is the editor of Mindjack and a freelance writer always looking for work. He can usually be found drooling over the latest in mobile computing or listening to a classic jazz CD while sipping a cup of java.

Gaming In The Fringes
by Donald Melanson

While most console gamers are busy playing the latest N64 or Playstation games, there is a vast area that has sprung forth in recent years, much in the vein of high-tech grassroots projects like Linux. Video game emulation, something which has actually been around for quite some time, has only recently neared perfection, due much to the efforts of a maverick group of programmers calling themselves Bloodlust Software. Bloodlust has made incredibly impressive software emulating the NES, Sega Genesis and many Capcom arcade games (such as Street Fighter 2 and Final Fight). Another popular emulator is MAME, which emulates hundreds of classic arcade games. With even a mid-range Pentium system these emulators perfectly match the original systems in almost every way.

Much to the dismay of game companies, virtually every game ever made for these and other systems is available on the Net for anyone to download. This is apparently legal if you already own the cartridge or arcade system, but as expected most users don't heed this warning and quickly fill up their hard drives with these games (called ROMs), giving them access to a game library which would otherwise costs thousands of dollars.

The legal uses of video game emulation is largely comprised of arcade game collectors who need these ROMs to repair damaged systems. Or if you're like me, people who have large collections of Sega and Nintendo cartridges piled up in a closet, who can now load these games on a PC for a bit of nostalgic gaming.

However, there are many people that would argue that since most of these games are no longer in production, and most likely not making much or any profit for the game companies, they should be freely released into the public domain for all to enjoy. This view appears to be the majority and hundreds of emulation web sites have sprung up, many of which get shut down after only a short life-span. The devotion that goes into some of these sites is very impressive; there are a couple of daily news services keeping gamers up to date on the latest software, and many all purpose sites containing games, emulators and other related software.

While the future of video game emulation is uncertain, the genie has certainly long left the bottle. Whether the video game companies decide to embrace it and use it as a makeshift, try-before-you-buy method, or it goes completely underground and becomes as widespread as pirated computer software, it seems unlikely that development will cease.

The writer of this article welcomes your comments: