A major site that hosts ROMS of classic video games has shut down because they are being sued by Nintendo. There’s a lot of discussion around this topic circulating in games journalism. Here’s a few pieces
What are this issue
There are some issues at play here that don’t seem complex at first, but upon examination reveal a level of complexity. On the surface you can say that the issue is one of access. Gamers want access to older games, and the organizations that own these games are not provided access of any kind. Most of the older games in question. In response to this, gamers found ways to make their own access to the older games. This access, often referred to as preserving/archiving, involves pulling the original game from a physical medium and running the game through an emulator.
- cultural ownership of commercial products
- lack of market availability when there’s an obvious market demand
- rigorous control of of intellectual property that had previously been seen as not having monetary value
Video Games as Community Archives
One thing that’s at play here is that video game enthusiast have a strong sense of community, and it might be that they are functioning as kind of community archival operation.
What maybe of concern is whether the enthusiast are able to preserve games and related information better than specialized archives? That’s up for debate, but communities of gamers should have a role to play in preserving them.