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Our Video Game Heritage Is Rotting Away

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the thermodynamics-at-work dept.

Games 492

eldavojohn writes "There's been a movement to preserve virtual worlds but MIT's Tech Review paints a dire picture of our video game memories rotting away in the attic of history. From the article: 'Entire libraries face extinction the moment the last remaining working console of its kind — a Neo Geo, Atari 2600 or something more obscure, like the Fairchild Channel F — bites the dust.' Published in The International Journal of Digital Curation, a new paper highlights this problem and explains how emulators fall short to truly preserve our video game heritage. The paper also breaks down popular SNES emulators to illustrate the growing problem with emulators and their varying quality. Do you remember any video consoles like the Magnavox Odyssey that are forever lost to the ages?"

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492 comments

Vectrex (5, Informative)

jomama717 (779243) | more than 3 years ago | (#33059820)

I have fond memories of playing the Vectrex console when I was a kid - I suppose there must be a few working units floating around out there but based on the way the graphics worked I wonder if you could ever truly emulate it on a PC.

Even if you could emulate the graphics you couldn't emulate the clear plastic templates you had to mount on the screen depending on the game :)

Re:Vectrex (2, Informative)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 3 years ago | (#33059888)

You can't?

Ever see the emulations of Space Invaders that are colored? Space Invaders is black and white, the color was from plastic on the screen.

Re:Vectrex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33059938)

"Do you remember any video consoles like the Magnavox Odyssey that are forever lost to the ages?"

Maybe if you're a 14yrs old teenage girl, but stop thinking you're the only one remembering old consoles, why don't you compare it with old cars ??

Re:Vectrex (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#33059984)

You can emulate it, but poorly. Emulated overlays look like any other color graphics. It really doesn't strike you just how far we've come until you stand in front of a Space Invaders machine and see the overlays, or when you plug in a Channel F and hear the audio coming from the console instead of the TV. That's when history touches you. That's when you recognize the reality of a world before colored sprites and digital audio.

Re:Vectrex (4, Insightful)

easterberry (1826250) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060096)

But we replaced those things for a reason. They weren't good. It's like people complaining about how games are so easy now and how we used to not have saves and only have 3 lives.

Those things were terrible. We replaced them because they were frustrating and annoying and reduced the gaming experience. What you remember is the joy of being younger, and while remembering that system might help YOU with that, it doesn't mean that society as a whole needs to remember them and put them on pedestals and more than we need to keep our old betamax tapes and laserdisks.

Re:Vectrex (5, Interesting)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060164)

You can't? Ever see the emulations of Space Invaders that are colored? Space Invaders is black and white, the color was from plastic on the screen.

Bigger problem with the Vectrex is that it used a vector [wikipedia.org] (X/Y) display. Although you can now draw lines on a raster monitor that are very smooth, and you can do glow effects that look pretty nice, it's not the same as drawing a straight line from point A to point B. No pixels, just phosphors emitting light.

Anyone who's played Asteroids on the original coin-op hardware (or even just played around with a CRT-based oscilloscope!) knows that if you dump a CRT's electron beam onto a single point, you get a spot of brightness that's radically brighter than a single white pixel on either a CRT or an LCD monitor.

For emulation purposes, I could live with rasterization. Sometimes, preserving the original hardware's important. Fortunately, there are communities in both the coin-op [caextreme.org] (big convention two weeks ago in San Jose) and console [cgexpo.com] (big convention this weekend in Vegas) communities dedicated to keeping the hardware alive long enough for the software to be preserved (and as much as possible, the hardware to be reverse-engineered for emulation purposes).

Re:Vectrex (2, Insightful)

Sunshinerat (1114191) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060200)

The problem with emulating the Vectex is that it is a vector based console, not raster based graphics. No matter what you would do in an emulator, you would have to translate the vector graphics into raster and that would take a way the one thing that made the Vectrex unique.

Re:Vectrex (3, Interesting)

WeatherServo9 (1393327) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060044)

Emulating the clear plastic templates should be relatively easy; could look something like this [mooli.org.uk]. What I find tough (nearly impossible currently?) is emulating the look of the vector display itself. Up until recently I had a crt, and despite its high resolution the scan lines still gave it away. I have a nice lcd display now, but the pixel grid can still be noticeable a bit. As displays increase in resolution and quality it will probably become possible to get pretty convincing emulation, but for now it seems vector displays have a look that's downright difficult to emulate.

Re:Vectrex (1)

HelioWalton (1821492) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060048)

I've got a Vectrex hanging around in my basement. I play Armor Attack on it every now and then, but it typically just hangs around looking cool. Hell, you can even get flash cartridges for 'em, so no need to emulate!

Re:Vectrex (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060156)

Hell, you can even get flash cartridges for 'em, so no need to emulate!

Until the display breaks down, as vector displays are notorious for doing.

Re:Vectrex (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060260)

I've seen hacks where people have hooked vector arcade games up to oscilloscopes. So at least some sort of vector display should be around for a while.

Re:Vectrex (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060052)

you couldn't emulate the clear plastic templates you had to mount on the screen depending on the game :)

Sure you could. You could produce a graphic overlay for each games based off the original plastic overlay.

Re:Vectrex (1)

jomama717 (779243) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060206)

Well, sure... but while you can simply download an emulated game how would you get access to the original overlays? If you got access I suppose you could scan them and then print them on clear overhead paper. Maybe somebody that has the originals should start a business doing this - talk about a niche market...

Re:Vectrex (1)

zevans (101778) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060268)

There MUST be people doing that as a business already... mustn't there?

Obligatory car analogy: lots of businesses producing replica AC Cobras using modern materials.

Re:Vectrex (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060336)

based on the way the graphics worked I wonder if you could ever truly emulate it on a PC.

Vectrex's display is based on wireframe vector graphics. But for the past decade, PlayStation, video cards have been designed to do one thing and do it well: rasterize vectors. Draw each vector as a quad, apply a blur filter over the whole thing, and blend in the overlay. What difficulties did you imagine?

Permanent archiving is impossible (5, Insightful)

JeffSh (71237) | more than 3 years ago | (#33059890)

Lost amidst all of the desire to permanently archive and hold on to every bit of past memory is the idea that we're supposed to forget. It's built into our DNA. I'm not convinced that it is a practical or necessary goal to hold on to and remember every little thing, especially video game heritage.

Some people may choose to make it a hobby, or an obsession, and that's their prerogative, but as a society and as a species there's certain things that once they're lost they're just gone. And future generations will not be robbed of some great cosmic truth when there are no longer any more NES machines capable of playing an NES cartridge. We will keep this memories in our own minds until we ourselves perish, and then the next generation takes over and creates something new themselves. I don't feel there's any sense pining over this eventuality.

Re:Permanent archiving is impossible (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33059956)

Actually, the fact we forget is the very reason we end up reliving the same nightmares over and over again. I'll forgo the foray into politics...

Re:Permanent archiving is impossible (5, Insightful)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 3 years ago | (#33059982)

The problem as I see it is that we, now, don't know what will be valued in the future. Whatever clown decided to make the same rock with Hieroglyphs, demotic, and greek would have no idea that at the time he was creating one of the most important archiological artifacts ever.

In short, preserve it now, let future generations decide what to study and what to ignore.

By the way, I wonder what medium we should use if we want to store data for a really, really long time. It'd be nice if there was an "Ask Slashdot" on this. Ah well. One can only dream...

Re:Permanent archiving is impossible (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060362)

The problem as I see it is that we, now, don't know what will be valued in the future. Whatever clown decided to make the same rock with Hieroglyphs, demotic, and greek would have no idea that at the time he was creating one of the most important archiological artifacts ever. In short, preserve it now, let future generations decide what to study and what to ignore. By the way, I wonder what medium we should use if we want to store data for a really, really long time. It'd be nice if there was an "Ask Slashdot" on this. Ah well. One can only dream...

You do realize that it is not practical to perserve everything? That some things will have to be allowed to be lost to history?

Re:Permanent archiving is impossible (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060372)

Digital. Unless you want to carve it on stone, then digital format is the best way.

The advantage of digital is that, although CDs decompose, and hard drives rust, you can always copy it to a new format with absolutely no data loss. Analog formats, like high quality film, slowly decompose, and every time you make a backup, there is some data loss. Some digital format is the best way.

The only drawback is you can't stick your hard drive in the ground and expect it to be readable a hundred years from now. You need to keep on top of it and constantly move your data to the latest media.

Re:Permanent archiving is impossible (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060004)

I don't feel there's any sense pining over this eventuality.

Well, if you firmly believe that video games and the digital interactions they provide to the player are art and part of our culture (and I personally do) then yes it does make sense for society to have a prerogative to save these video games. Why give up on video games when we've spent so much time, money and resources saving the Mona Lisa, Sistine Chapel, the Statue of Liberty or old phonograph recordings of dead musicians? Your view is quite callous to the hours spent developing and imagining these video games as well as the hours spent enjoying them.

Whatever plan that can be instituted to save games should be done now before too many consoles are lost to the ages.

Re:Permanent archiving is impossible (4, Insightful)

LordPhantom (763327) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060012)

That's a bit short-sighted, don't you think? Do you similarly think we shouldn't attempt to preserve the works of Beethoven or Picasso? There may not be a great cosmic truth contained in many different works of art but that doesn't mean there isn't irreplaceable creative value in it.

That's not to say that every game was noteworthy, but there are some that are worthy of preservation, not because of nostalgia but because they have value inof themselves.

Re:Permanent archiving is impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060202)

You are absolutely right! The games are not to be remembered forever. The same like books or music. They are merely a pieces of experience we live through this life and they either change us a bit and leave something good in our subconsciousness, or they don't. Mankind shall yet discover those great cosmic thruths and this is really more important then trying to preserve every bit of art or fun media.

Re:Permanent archiving is impossible (5, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060294)

Lost amidst all of the desire to permanently archive and hold on to every bit of past memory is the idea that we're supposed to forget. It's built into our DNA. [...] I don't feel there's any sense pining over this eventuality.

Wow - way to attack every single historian, archaeologist, paleontologist, archivist, librarian, and anyone interested in history in the planet by basically boiling it down to "It doesn't matter". If thats what you think, your history teacher wasn't very good. We learn from the past, we learn from history. Not just the mistakes, but also the successes. Not just the massive events, but also the mundane.

To say that "Forgetting" is in our DNA does not make a connection that "It is meant to happen" - that correlation needs to be shut down right away. Cancer is in your DNA. Ironically fitting, so is Alzheimers, which you may or may not get, which affects your memory. In fact, one of the greatest attributes humans have that give them an advantage over every other species is our memory.

If you don't care about your heritage, than you basically don't value your society. If you don't care that your grandparents fought in a war for YOUR freedom, you wouldn't value your freedom, because you wouldn't know you had it. Keeping Super Mario Bros. 3 in its original state might seem like a ridiculous goal now - but 3 or 4 generations from now, people will ask "What did people do with all their spare time?". It'd be great if we had that stuff in a museum for them to research, so that they can care about their heritage.

And like someone else said - let them decide what's important. Perhaps entertainment will be the main industry in the future, once industries are farmed out to robots.

MAME project (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33059900)

I downloaded the paper...

a new paper highlights this problem and explains how emulators fall short to truly preserve our video game heritage

0 hits for M.A.M.E
0 hits for mame

Any "study" about emulation which doesn't talk about MAME autofails. MAME, the emulator which puts "accuracy" over "playability" 100% of the time.

Re:MAME project (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33059930)

Perhaps you should try reading the paper instead of just searching for keywords. Then you'd know that the focus of the paper is on home gaming systems, and not arcade systems... It's not a study on emulation...

some arcade games used home gaming systems and hom (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060062)

some arcade games used home gaming systems and home pc systems.

Re:some arcade games used home gaming systems and (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060110)

Yeah well the point remains that the paper is focused on home console games, not arcade games...

Re:MAME project (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060324)

Explain the difference as per the subject? The point of the research is retaining access to old software. Actually, there's M.E.S.S which is directly based on the MAME source. It emulates a wide variety of old gaming systems and computers with the same focus on accuracy.

Re:MAME project (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060068)

So when is MAME getting around to emulating the SNES?

The article is about console games. Not arcade games.

No fear. (4, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33059910)

There will ALWAYS been crazy collectors that keep these things working, even if it means having parts custom made. If people can still own old automobiles that are drivable, they can still own old gaming consoles kept in tip-top shape.

Re:No fear. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33059968)

It is easier to find parts for my 1929 Model A than it is for my '06 Taurus.

I'm not joking.

Re:No fear. (2, Informative)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060162)

That's because the Model A is a historical touchstone and the Taurus is a piece of shit.

/ex-Taurus owner

Re:No fear. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060322)

A piece that can go air born and not break, leak oil and the engine still goes, do hollywood style corners and the suspension holds. Sure, it's a piece, but it is a solid piece.

Re:No fear. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060196)

Try finding parts for my '82 2DR Celebrity with 81k and factory chalk marks still on the firewall.

Re:No fear. (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060342)

Try finding parts for a 1937 Mercer with the original Coventry Climax engine.

I'm still stuck with a damned project car and no parts.

Re:No fear. (1)

us7892 (655683) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060002)

I'm holding onto my Atari 2600 console, and basket of games to sell to one of these collectors someday. Alas, only worth about $23 on EBay. Oh well. http://cgi.ebay.com/ATARI-2600-Video-Game-System-controllers-and-games-/190421866960?cmd=ViewItem&pt=Video_Games&hash=item2c560719d0#ht_522wt_935 [ebay.com]

Re:No fear. (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060234)

There are too many 2600s in existence for the console itself to be worth anything in our lifetimes. And new hardware is still being produced [wikipedia.org]. Although, if you have any funny looking T-shaped [wikipedia.org] cartridges, you might be in luck.

If I were you, I'd take it out and play it. Now is a great time to enjoy 2600 gaming, as there's a flash cart [atariage.com] that will play every 2600 game (even supercharger!) for the price of 1 or 2 carts back in the day.

Re:No fear. (4, Insightful)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060060)

It's easy to have custom parts made for things like the Atari 2600. It's engineering is relatively straightforward. Contrast that to a PS3, which specifically is designed with security in mind. Duplicating some of the parts there would be much, much more difficult.

Re:No fear. (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060106)

True, but the technology behind the product is much more advanced as well (not to mention far less physical components present). I would think that a PS3 would survive sitting unused much longer than an Atari would, if for no other reason than at least because there are less objects inside that could fail.

Re:No fear. (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060302)

Electronics aren't as easy to custom-make as mechanical parts. Especially vector screens aren't something you can make with your standard workshop equipment.

Re:No fear. (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060390)

If people can still own old automobiles that are drivable, they can still own old gaming consoles kept in tip-top shape.

What was the last car you saw that was OLDER than the Model T?

They are very very very few and very very very far between. Video games in the 80's and 90's were only just starting to penetrate the market broad enough to be considered a household item. When you look at Cars older than those that were mass produced, you have trouble finding a collector for them.

Older consoles might share the same fate - replacement parts for the crazy collector require an equally crazy technician to create the parts that have been now rendered obsolete.

The problem with closed-source code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33059920)

When companies die, the code can be lost with them. Video games are not even the tip of this iceberg.

So what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33059924)

So what. I have some floppies I can't read, too. And some PATA hard disks that will be useless shortly.

Fair use (2, Insightful)

Jiro (131519) | more than 3 years ago | (#33059942)

Copying a game you own in order to run it on a different machine is fair use and doesn't require permission from anyone. The writers of this paper seem to take Nintendo's word as to what type of emulation is actually legal.

But then again, what do you expect from a paper that uses the term "128-bit system"?

Re:Fair use (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060230)

Look at Atari vs JS&A, where a court ruled that even though you were able to get backups making them themselves are illegal.

Re:Fair use (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060354)

Copying a game you own in order to run it on a different machine is fair use and doesn't require permission from anyone

That's not quite so clear cut, but even if it were, it doesn't really solve the problem. I have a few hundred C-64 games in my attic. They won't go out of copyright until, what, 2100? Maybe longer if there are more copyright extensions. So, I copy them, then what? I have to hang on to them for another 90 years before I can give a copy to a museum to preserve?

seriously (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33059950)

who fucking cares?

Re:seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060172)

I do! The idea that my daughter will not know what it was like playing tank on an atari whatever-the-fuck-number-it-was just wrings my insides into knots. A vital part of our shared cultural heritage is lost. How can we even think of moving forward in our couch-potato life-style if we do not know from whence we came? Our children will grow up to be bereft of the cultural heft of our accomplishments as a people and have absolutely no sense of context as they help guide Mario around on his little kart. An absolute shame, that is what it is. Now excuse me as I curl up in a little ball and quietly sob in the corner while rocking back and forth as my child ignorantly continues to play some insipid bowling game.

Perhaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33059966)

Perhaps these things are not valuable enough to be preserved?

Virtual Boy (3, Funny)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#33059978)

The virtual boy console from nintendo, due to its 3D nature and unique hardware, is simply impossible to emulate and will eventually vanish like it never existed. Oh wait, that's a good thing!!!

Re:Virtual Boy (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060150)

It is impossible to emulate perfectly, but not entirely possible to emulate at all. The mednafen WIP has virtual boy emulation that works with anaglyph glasses.

Re:Virtual Boy (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060300)

If stereo HMDs become more readily available it seems it ought to be fairly "trivial" to use a dual-output video card with one to get a very good representation of the Virtual Boy that permits you to move your neck while playing. (I have at least one around here somewhere, and will sell the second one if I can dig it up again.)

Re:Virtual Boy (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060350)

Didn't they have HMDs for PC gaming back in the nineties? If nothing else you could probably use those.

Re:Virtual Boy (2, Interesting)

HelioWalton (1821492) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060174)

Impossible to emulate? There are at least 3 emulators for the VB that support 3D. Just grab a pair of Red/Blue glasses, or Cyan/Magenta, and you're good to go!

Emulators (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33059996)

Legal or not, there are emulators and rum dumps out there of every system I can think of.

And to think emulation is fought fiercely (4, Insightful)

mykos (1627575) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060008)

It's funny how the ones who fight hardest against the spread of their works are, in effect, ensuring that their efforts will be forgotten and they will not leave a mark on gaming history. They are cementing themselves into a tomb of their own making, burying themselves alive.

Thanks to emulation, many of these older games have secured their spot in the memory of a digital society. Shame that the current generation of consoles is locked down in every way imaginable; perhaps historical obscurity is getting what they deserve. They will be remembered for their litigiousness rather than their art.

Re:And to think emulation is fought fiercely (4, Insightful)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060154)

They want the old games to be forgotten. They want you to buy new ones. Unless, of course, they can find a way to monitize the old ones, such as the various new "Arcade" style stores that let you download old stuff for a price.

Re:And to think emulation is fought fiercely (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060176)

It's funny how the ones who fight hardest against the spread of their works are, in effect, ensuring that their efforts will be forgotten and they will not leave a mark on gaming history. They are cementing themselves into a tomb of their own making, burying themselves alive.

You are making a big assumption thinking that almost any of these game companies care about such a thing.

Re:And to think emulation is fought fiercely (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060318)

It's funny how the ones who fight hardest against the spread of their works are, in effect, ensuring that their efforts will be forgotten and they will not leave a mark on gaming history. They are cementing themselves into a tomb of their own making, burying themselves alive.

As much as you'd like to believe that - it's not at all true. Screenshots of the games will survive, as will reviews, walkthroughs, blog posts, etc... etc... While I'll grant these are nowhere as good as the game itself, it's foolish to believe the inability to play the game itself equates to being forgotten and failing to leave a mark. Even if the rare corner case where absolutely nothing survives - the games it inspired (if any) will leave accounts and traces.
 
And historians are long used to, and well experienced at, working backwards tracing such chains. It's what historian do after all.
 

Thanks to emulation, many of these older games have secured their spot in the memory of a digital society

If they are only remembered because they can be played, and not for the impacts and traces mentioned above, then probably they aren't worth remembering.

Documentation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060014)

If they properly document the systems they create (along with their eccentricities that programmers take advantage of) then it wouldn't be such a big problem... but when you get cases such as the PlayStation 2, which Sony can't reliably emulate, that's where you have a problem.

Re:Documentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060160)

There is a large difference between emulating something reliably and emulating something reliably at a non excessive cost and at the correct speed on hardware made for a different purpose. I believe the main problem with emulating ps2 on the ps3 is the raw power may or may not be there, but the radically different architecture would require too much money, and besides. everybody has a ps2. THATS WHY WE MADE THE PS3!

New isn't always better (0, Redundant)

unixguy43 (1644877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060024)

There's lots of cool games and game systems out there now, but in my mind nothing beats the old ones.

Compared to today's multi-player, multimedia extravaganza's, the old games and consoles may be low-tech, but they still have a lot of fun and enjoyment for all ages. There's a lot of nostalgia around the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision and Nintendo NES, and I'd love to have a few of them to play around on again.

Choppy graphics and cheesy music may seem pretty awkward in today's gaming arena of digital audio and photo-realistic video, but I'd take the old games anyday.

Computer Games Too! (3, Insightful)

painandgreed (692585) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060028)

Hell, I'm even worried about computer games. I collect old Macs and games to play on them. While the machines are still out there, various accessories for such are getting harder to find as are the actual games. While on the PC, theoretically, they'll play on a newer machine, the Mac platform has had a couple of changes of processor types that make sit hard to carry software over. Classic isn't even an option on the Intel Mac. There are tons of old games for the Mac toasters alone that formed a good deal of early computer gaming history and are still fun to play: Net Trek, Lunar Rescue, Ancient Art of War, etc. Every now and then I find a copy to buy, but I don't even have the games I played on an those old Macs, let alone the ones I never got to play.

I bet that even really old PC games have lots of issues, if you can track them down. I don't even want to think about what has happened to hardware and games for the old Apple ][s.

Re:Computer Games Too! (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060320)

Hell, I'm even worried about computer games. I collect old Macs and games to play on them

I hope you've changed the capacitors on them. After 20 years or so, they can leak and ruin your board.
Also, remove the batteries from any computer or console that's not being regularly used. They can
also leak and ruin the board.

I don't even want to think about what has happened to hardware and games for the old Apple ][s.

It's not that bad actually. There were labs full of Apple IIes in just about every high school in
the country. With software like ADTPro, it's easy to dump disk images from your computer to a floppy.
Amazing really.

Intellivision Baseball (1)

singingjim1 (1070652) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060036)

We used to play that for hours and hours. There's something fun about the simplicity of it compared to the bloat of options that now rule sports games. That rotating disc to control the players was certainly a pain in the thumb, but turning a double play from left field was a thing of beauty.

Re:Intellivision Baseball (1)

Sturm (914) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060258)

I loved Intellevision as well but speaking of "preserving" games..

Intellevision added another level of complexity with the controller overlays. They would eventually crack or be lost and although we might remember the control numbers for a while, it was almost impossible for someone unfamiliar with the game to play it correctly without the overlays.

Oh, and while I had a love hate relationship with the disc on the controller, it was those damn thumb buttons on the side that STILL give me nightmares. My right thumb is getting numb right now just thinking about it...

Re:Intellivision Baseball (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060358)

Yes, this is still one of the best sports games of all time. Controlling an entire field of players with the numeric keypad is an experience unmatched by any game since. Each player has his own button, there's never any ambiguity about who you're selecting.

Re:Intellivision Baseball (1)

dtolman (688781) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060380)

Great game - only shame about it is the lack of fly vs ground balls. I should really see how much it costs to get the new baseball version they published in the mid-80's... my intellivision console works and still I play it now and then (including baseball - just a few months ago).

MAME does it right (2, Insightful)

deweyhewson (1323623) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060056)

There's only one emulator out there which does it right, in my opinion, and that's MAME. Their goal is preservation, not playability, which they still maintain is a nice "side effect" of the code.

Most emulators have it the other way around, and use whatever code hacks or tweaks they can to get the most popular games up and running, replete with all of the glitches and inaccurate emulation which inevitably follow. Instead, they should follow MAME's example, and code for 100% perfect emulation relying solely on hardware guaranteed to be consistent (meaning the CPU). The tradeoff is that more technically advanced games take extremely powerful hardware to run - see Gauntlet Legends or similar games - but when they do they run perfectly, preserving the experience for future generations.

Preservation first, playability second.

Re:MAME does it right (1)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060210)

Different emulators have different goals. Mame isn't in it for the money. Contrast this to an emulator such as the one used by Nintendo for the Wii. Their goal is to provide an acceptable level of emulation, at the lowest possible cost.

old games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060064)

let us not forget the RCA studio 2 game system.

Problem-Solution gap (2, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060094)

There exists a wide gulf between the problem ('how do we store this stuff in a museum') and the proposed solution ('make it playable in the future'). It isn't as if the any of the aircraft in the National Air and Space Museum, for example, is ever taken out and flown by the museum guests. Does anyone really expect us to believe that seeing the Spirit of Saint Louis hanging up there is anything at all like the experience of crossing the Atlantic in it?

An adequate solution would be to record samples of the gameplay onto more future-proof media, blow up huge screenshots, and otherwise fabricate museum exhibits out of what we have left. This would mirror exactly the way we preserve everything else.

Typical geek silliness, if you ask me.

Pinmame and Visual pinball have there full code ba (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060114)

Pinmame and Visual pinball have there full code base in the open so they can live on!

Decapping (4, Interesting)

snarfies (115214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060120)

There's a very interesting project aimed at "decapping" chips from arcade motherboards. They burn the tops of the chips off with fuming nitric acid until the silicone is exposed, and the silicon is then put under a microscope, and the resulting image is then somehow processed to obtain the ROM's actual contents. I don't see why it couldn't be applied to consoles as well, if necessary. See http://guru.mameworld.info/decap/ [mameworld.info] for more details (and how you can help).

As to the article's position that emulation is not "good enough," well, perhaps not. Even assuming we have the exact decapped ROM contents, full documentation, and an absolutely perfectly coded emulator, we would still lack the original hardware - specifically the controllers and display. I used to play games on my Commodore with an old Atari 2600 joystick in a little 13-inch television. Its a tad different with my USB gamepad on my 22-inch widescreen LCD monitor, and there just isn't much for it.

Electronic handhelds (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060130)

Even more at risk are the electronic handhelds of the late 1970's (P.S. it was so long ago now that I feel compelled to include the century), in the manner of Mattel Football and Simon, but more obscure titles. I remember that whereas Mattel Football and three lanes of LEDs, there were knockoffs that had four or five lanes. And I recall a Bandai basketball game that had fully-drawn figures that would light up on a flourescent display. And then in 1981 there was a tabletop football game that sold for $70 at the time ($300 in today's dollars) for two simultaneous players -- I saw it once in a tiny midwestern town and never anywhere else.

Rare old Consoles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060140)

I had a Colecovision and a Wonderswan. How's that for obscure?

Their evaluation of emulators (1)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060146)

Would be quite apt....if this were a decade ago

Zsnes does an amazing job of recreating Snes games, and even has graphical engines to IMPROVE the existing graphics. Gens32 rocks for Genesis games and even displays games with the trickiest mappers(I.E Warsong). Fceu replays all my old NES games with great graphical and sound support.

So, as a great warrior poet once put it, "Stop your whining!"

Magnavox Odyssey (1)

RealRav (607677) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060180)

This past weekend I went to a record store in downtown Paris, Texas. They had 3 fully functioning Magnavox Odysseys for sale. They also had a Ti99 4A which was very interesting to me as it was my very first computer.

CD-Interactive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060184)

Some of my most interesting game time as a kid was spent on our Philips CDI. How many hours we spent on Laser Lords! Alice and Wonderland was a delight, Zombie Dinos from Planet Zeltoid (I kid you not) for some educational fun, the two worst Zelda games ever made, but I enjoyed them nonetheless... Fond memories. I brought out the unit a couple years back to relive some of them - the controller had seen better days, but it still worked! I wish more people could have experienced some of these games, it was such a niche system (I never knew anyone else who had one) and it didn't last long...

Yes, I remember the Odyssey (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060204)

IIRC, the Odyssey and its many clones were all based on a special-purpose General Instruments Pong chip. Maybe that's only the later ones, and the earlier ones were discrete. (ah, a web search confirms this; the GI Pong chip came after the originals, which were discrete). There's no copyrighted code to extract, and if you were to clone the hardware for preservation purposes, nobody's going to bother suing you.

I also remember an electromechanical Pong game, but nobody seems to care about that one.

And if some of this stuff really is lost, it's no big deal.

Re:Yes, I remember the Odyssey (1)

weszz (710261) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060306)

I loved my Odyssey... it was a simple time.

One game you just went around kicking monkeys for points... they would turn red and jump all over really fast trying to get back at you, but you just avoid them for a while, and then kick them again when they cooled off...

it. was. awesome....

So? (1)

Thyamine (531612) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060214)

I'm a gamer who grew up with an Atari 400 and an NES and down the line, but I don't really see how this ranks in the importance of things. I've gone back to re-play some of my favorite games and it's just not the same. The memory I have is always better than really playing it again, and no one today cares about how great that original version of Spy Hunter was. Ask your nephew to play and see how he feels about it if you don't believe me.

Troll ahead: There are a lot more important things out there disappearing: cultures, languages, random little insects I've never heard of, etc etc. I'd rather see effort on preserving things like that than how can we keep playing these games in the future. Keep talking about them, document them, tell fun memories of them, but why such a concern about being able to play them?

The next generation is too dumb to care (1)

NiceGeek (126629) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060232)

I submit this comment from the article as proof:

"Who cares
The aging gamers who enjoyed the magnovox or gleco vision wont be around much longer so what's the point in preserving shitting games? I know that they must feel nastalgia for these cause i just bought a sega collection disk for my 360 but i could careless if the games on that disk are gone in the future cause there will be way better games. Frankly its a waste of time to emulate all this simple games like pong or those super super garbage rpgs. Ya for nonresponsive controls and pixelated graphics!!!"

Mattel Intellivision (1)

dgr73 (1055610) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060272)

Intellivision is a console I was forced to buy "in the flesh" because it just can't be emulated properly. And i'm not talking about the software, for which there is several emulators.. i'm talking about the controller. The baby packs:

16 directional control disc
0-9 numpad with Enter/Clear buttons
Plus a few "non-specific" buttons

Also considering how the controller is used, with overlays on the numpad, it just makes it that much harder to have anywhere close to the same feel or layout on PC joysticks or any Mouse+KB combination.

Relavent? (1)

SOULFLAYER (1865632) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060312)

All things change, nothing is extinguished. There is nothing in the whole world which is permanent. Everything flows onward; all things are brought into being with a changing nature; the ages themselves glide by in constant movement. -Ovid (BC 43-AD 18) Roman poet.

The future looks worse... (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 3 years ago | (#33060364)

And now with DRM schemes that require software to phone home, once the servers used for authentication are retired, those particular pieces will be much more difficult to preserve. And let's not even get started with online only games like WoW. How would you preserve a MMORPG when the servers no longer exists? And even if you somehow manage to recreate a server, without the players, it's not the same experience.

It's called progress... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33060374)

Get over it.

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