ESA Says Required 'Hacking' Makes Preserving Old Games Illegal

The Entertainment Software Association might be a trade association that cares about the health of the gaming industry, but that doesn't mean it cares at all about preserving its rich history. That's now been proven by the fact that it says preserving old games is "illegal", based on the fact that it requires them to be "hacked".

Based on the wording, I am not sure if it's talking about game emulation, per se, because more often than not, emulators run verbatim game code (ROMs) that were extracted from the original data source (cartridge, optical media, et cetera). In this vein, it would consider it to be "illegal" if someone wanted to make a fan hack.

Super Mario World 64
Fan hacks would not be kosher according to the ESA

Nonetheless, I am sure most gamers would agree that it'd be great to always have access to their titles, regardless of how old they are. There are no limitations when it comes to video content; we even have sources from over one-hundred years ago that we can view today. Games are of course far more complex.

This is a subject I've put a lot of thought into over the years, especially when I've encountered games that run on a single platform. Jet Set Radio Future is a good example. Released for the original Xbox, it also runs on the Xbox 360 via backwards compatibility. Well, one of those consoles has long since been discontinued, and the 360 is clearly on its last legs. What does that mean in 20 years? If Sega isn't kind enough to finally port the game, it'll be lost. Unless of course an Xbox emulator comes along that remedies the problem for us.

Auto Assault
Auto Assault: An MMO that could never be brought back to life without 'hacking'

What would even better fall into ESA's perception of illegal would be MMOs that fans have revived. I've been an avid MMO gamer since 2002, and I can honestly say that I'd hate to lose access to them outright. Fortunately for me, even the same MMO I played in 2002 still exists today, and the company has promised to release the server software to help preserve it forever. But few games are so lucky.

The ESA is very firm in its stance. It's not even willing to allow games to be preserved by educational systems, including museums. This is mind-blowing to me, because it just highlights that the association doesn't care whatsoever about fully preserving the history of the very industry it oversees.

One thing's for certain, though: it's not going to matter what the ESA wants or implies. Games are going to be preserved, because that's what gamers want.

Tags:  Gaming, ESA