Video Games, Opinion Pieces

Are Emulators & Roms Good For Video Game Preservation?

Photo by Lisa on

Technology is an ever-growing field. Even products made in the past decade are often outdated within a year or two of their creation.
The way media is created also evolved; creators no longer need to rely on tapes, cartridges, and other older forms of storage.

I will talk about emulators, ROMs, and how I feel they are essential for video game preservation in today’s piece.

As the screenshot above shows, gaming has evolved a lot over the years. I used screenshots of Green Hill Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) and Sonic Forces (2017).

The cartridge that the original game was 4mbs, the iconic “SEGA” start-up sound took up 1/8th of that space. We probably have more selfies on our phones than these carts could hold!

Now, this is why I believe emulators and ROMs are vital for game preservation.
Despite dropping out of console manufacturing, SEGA is still a prominent software developer. They know Sonic the Hedgehog will sell. You don’t need to own the original cart anymore to play the original title. It’s easier to name a system you can’t play it on at this stage. Still, the same can’t be said for franchises with long-defunct studios, or even franchise developers just stopped caring about.

I have used the image from Kid Klown in Crazy Chase, a game I remember playing as a child. This game was initially released in 1994 on the SNES and ported to the GameBoy Advance in 2002.
A sequel that was exclusive to Japan was released on the PlayStation in 1996.

Kid Klown in Crazy Chase is available on 2 systems that use cartridges. It doesn’t take a lot to damage those. Data can corrupt, or titles like these can become rare and expensive collector’s items.
Or, in some cases, sequels end up being region exclusive. So without emulators and ROMs, you would need to import the title and acquire a region-free system.

Kemco is still a developer to this day. Still, a title like Kid Klown isn’t going to print money for them, so what need do they have in porting its titles, let alone reviving it?
You can only play these games by owning the cartridges and the systems they are on.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Discs can rot over time, so that isn’t a permanent way to preserve something. In time, I imagine that many of the physical games I own will wind up with this issue after being used so often.
There may be titles from the disc era of gaming that’ll wind up being lost because they were never ported. Maybe the developer went bust, or the developer just didn’t want to continue with the franchise, as mentioned in the previous paragraph.

I understand why emulators and ROMs are frowned upon by some. You’re essentially getting access to the titles for free, but on the flip side, how else would you get to experience them?

I see video games as an art form. Games from previous decades paved the way for modern titles, and we’ve all seen how gorgeous games look in this era of gaming.
It’s nice to see how art forms improve over time. Imagine if the original Mona Lisa was never returned, we’d have lost an essential part of that era of painting.

Imagine if the original David sculpture by Michelangelo broke, what’d that have done to the art world? David and the Mona Lisa were created during times where cataloging things would’ve been difficult; we’re currently living in a time where it’s easy to do so!
I could show you a photo I took in 2010 by opening an app!

I would happily pay a subscription to relive, or even experience some titles from the earlier eras of gaming!

I put a poll out on Twitter to gauge the opinions of others.
Where do you stand on this subject? Let me know!

Thank you for reading!
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1 thought on “Are Emulators & Roms Good For Video Game Preservation?”

  1. I definitely agree that Emulators are important. Especially older games that people are over pricing on eBay or other sites. I’m perfectly fine with emulation so long as it’s not a brand new game.


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