All Your Favourite Retro Video Games Are Disappearing At Such A Scary Rate That Our Childhoods Could Be Gone Forever, And It Makes No Sense

Original, non-pirated versions of classic games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong may well be lost to time, like tears in rain.

Reliving some of your favourite childhood memories just got harder as one of the internet’s foremost retro video game portals took down its archives of pirated titles to preempt legal action that closed two other similar sites.

EmuParadise founder MasJ announced his decision to remove the website’s database of more than 100,000 retro games, citing a fear of “potentially disastrous consequences”.

This comes during a crackdown by the video game industry on the illegal distribution of its games, with websites and recently shuttering in response to legal action from Nintendo, making it harder to access retro games that have shaped pop culture.

EmuParadise had hosted digital game files – commonly known as ‘roms’ – that can be played on computers or mobile phones by using software that emulates a virtual console.

Short of tracking down a dusty second-hand console in questionable condition, using roms and emulators are often the only way to access retro games.

Downloading roms of published games is definitely not legal in Australia even if you own a physical copy of the game, according an expert interviewed by Kotaku in 2016.  

Video games are well and truly a part of mainstream culture: two-thirds of Australians play video games, the video game industry is big (and extremely profitable), and even politicians you wouldn’t expect are trying to appeal to the gaming community.

And as Gen Xers who led the charge in the 80s have taken over the baby boomers’ grip on popular culture, classic game references are being remade into television shows and movies too.

Video game studios’ intellectual property is protected by law for decades after games are published, just like books or movies. Their stories, graphics and characters are usually the result of massive investments of money and labour. Pirating these games fails to support the artists who are making the things we love, so you should pay for them if you can.

But what if you can’t? The accessibility of older video games is pretty limited if they are no longer on sale.

If you’re partial to a bit of waka waka waka or have a bunch of barrels hanging around and a princess that needs saving, your best hope is that the video game studio will re-release the favourite game.

Companies occasionally re-release their more popular titles on newer consoles or, in some cases, the old consoles itself.

However, there’s not much chance that will happen for fans waiting for re-releases of games that are niche or were made by companies that no longer exist.

Andrew ‘AC’ Yoshimura, host of the podcast Game/Life Balance Australia and avid retro gamer, thinks that it can be really difficult to access some older titles.

“As many movies were lost in the early days of film, so too with video games,” Yoshimura says. “There were many games written for micro-computers, like the ZX Spectrum, programmed by hobbyists back in the 1980s that are now lost to time.”

EmuParadise founder MasJ says he’d like to see legal reform to make it easier to play retro video games.

“Most of these games are so old that even the companies that produced them are gone,” MasJ tells GOAT.

“It would only be fair to move these assets into the public domain. That, or shorter terms for copyright would be a viable solution.”

Unless there’s a change in copyright law or video games companies’ behaviour, big chunks of video game history and mainstream popular culture could be unavailable or lost entirely to future generations.

And this flies in the face of one of the most basic rules of gaming culture: you should always save your progress.

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