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Play Video Games for Free on Computer

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When I first found out about this field of video games I was so surprised. What was the point of buying or renting video games and their consoles? Why spend money when I can get them for free. In this article, I will discuss the ways, the roadblocks, and the legal issues of playing video games on the computer.

First off, I want to clarify what I mean by playing video games on the computer. I am not referring to computer games. I am talking about games for Nintendo, Playstation, Sega Genesis, Xbox, etc. Impossible as it may seem, it is possible to play these games on the computer. It is called emulation.

Emulation starts with a ROM. Really, ROM is an acronym for read only memory. But when dealing with video games on the computer, a ROM is the actual game. Games are stored in a cartridge (vintage games) in a read only memory chips (as opposed to random access memory or RAM). In the newer games, they are stored on CD-ROMs or DVD-ROMs. The proper term for video games that come from CDs and DVDs is ISO not ROM. This is because read only memory chips only exist in cartridges. Throughout this article, when I refer to ROMs, I am also talking about ISOs. Anyway, the point is that ROMs and ISOs generally cannot be changed. They are the permanent code for the game. To play a game on the computer, the code in the ROM must be obtained. With vintage game cartridges, manufacturers (primarily from Asia) provide cartridge adapters that can copy the RAM very quickly. For the newer games on CD and DVD, most people use CD/DVD drive to “rip” the game. Sometimes a regular computer drive will work. Other times, the data is heavily encrypted in the disk that a special drive is necessary.

But what do you do with all of these ROMs? They are not natively playable on any operating system. So an emulator is necessary to run the code. An emulator is a program that is executable on the computer. It is actually a software console. For example, think of it as the actual Nintendo 64 in a program. An emulator mimics everything that a gaming system does. It “fools” the ROM into thinking that it is playing on an actual gaming system. There are many different emulators for each console. Take for instance the Nintendo Gamecube. The last time I checked, there were 5 emulators. Personally, I think that the creators should merge their efforts to create a really good emulator. Nevertheless, with many emulators designed to mimic one console, each has different bells-and-whistles. Some have “virtual memory slots” so that you can save games onto them just like a regular memory slot. The only difference is that it is free! Others have ways to speed up game flow. Pretend that you are waiting for a video story line to hurry up or you want to run faster. During game play, you can slow or speed up!

Some may be asking if the performance of video game emulation is comparable to the “real thing.” I’ve tried a variety of ROMs on different emulators for different consoles and I get mixed results.

For games in 2D, most any computer can run them. This includes old Pentium, Pentium Pro, Pentium MMX, and Pentium II computers. Two-dimensional games are very easy to emulate. They don’t require any special graphics cards or high end CPUs. There is not much to process in a 2D game. Most 2D games and emulators are less than a megabyte each. You can actually fit 3-4 ROMs on one floppy disk! Watch out though! The ROMs of the newer systems, which use disks instead of cartridges, are 700MB to 4GB large! Examples of 2D consoles are Nintendo, Atari, Gameboy, Super Nintendo, and Sega.

Now, for games in three dimensions, not every computer can run them. CPUs are designed for general usage. CPUs are “well-rounded.” They can perform decently in just about every task. They don’t really have a specialization. On the other hand, the processors in 3D game consoles are more specialized. They are highly optimized to perform many cutting-edge graphics calculations. Therefore, to emulate those systems, a computer with a fast processor and graphics card. Actually, there are some systems that cannot be emulated very well with the processing power our computers have today. This includes the newest systems like Gamecube, Xbox, and PS2. The Xbox 360 and the PS3 will definitely be in this category too. The graphics on these consoles are so advanced! Though I could run Super Smash Brothers for Nintendo 64 on my computer (Pentium 4 2.8 Ghz with Nvidia GeForce4) pretty decently with no problems (60 frames per second), I could not play the Super Smash Brother Melee for Gamecube. I tried running Super Smash Brothers Melee on all the Gamecube emulators. Not to mention the many errors and texture glitches, it was very sluggish, performing at about 7 FPS. I didn’t even get to the actual game play battlefield! The menu was too slow to actually get to it! When the menus are so slow that they are unusable, you know that it is very advanced. I’m sure that computers in the next generation will be able to seamlessly emulate these systems. But until then, the “real thing” is the best.

When I first got involved into emulation, I questioned the legality of it. Like many activities related to “hackers” like me, it is a gray area. From what I’ve read, this is my understanding of the issue. It is legal to have and use ROMs only if you own the actual game, if the copyright expired, or if the copyright holder permitted you do to do so. So, this is what I do: I buy the game I want on eBay and then download the ROM.

Another legal issue in emulation is the console software rights. Most of the time, it is legal to use an emulator because someone who released it to the public for free wrote it. But there are some systems that just can’t be emulated legally unless you own the console. This includes the Playstation consoles. Unlike most vintage consoles, the Playstation embeds its operating system into the BIOS (a chip) of the circuitry. Playstation emulators require a separate download of the BIOS software. This software is copyrighted. So, to legally use it, you must own the actual Playstation.

Why Don’t People Use ROMs?
Aside from the performance and legal issues outlined above, there are many reasons why people don’t just give up the “real thing.”

For one, they don’t know about emulation or they don’t believe it works. When I first heard about it (in middle school), I was surprised and skeptical at the same time!

Another reason is that they don’t know where to get the ROMs and emulators. I’ve given some sites at the end of the article to see on the whereabouts of these files.

Controllers are another big issue that hinders people from embracing emulation. When you use an emulator, the default “controller” is the keyboard because most computers only have a keyboard and a mouse as input devices. If you’ve ever been involved in emulation, you know that it is a little annoying when you use “Home” as “A” or the arrow keys for the analogue joystick. But there are solutions to this issue. One is using a controller converter. A controller converter (or adapter) is a device to plug into the computer’s USB port. The adapter provides a slot that real controller can plug into. They have converters for every console available today. Just recently, I bought an N64/PS adapter for a friend.

Another solution to the controller issue is PC controllers. This is what I personally use. Companies make controller clones for PCs. There are Xbox, PS2, Nintendo 64, etc controller clones that can plug into USB ports. This is a lot cheaper than using a genuine controller with an USB adapter. I personally have two PS2 USB controllers. If I use any other emulator, say for Nintendo 64, I still use it because I can map each N64 button to an equivalent button on my PS2 controller. Some people tell me it is annoying, but I think it is all right. The end of this article has links to the places where you can buy these controllers and converters.

The last reason why people do not use emulators is that it’s just not the same to have it on the monitor. It is a totally different experience when you play on a big TV then on a small 14-inch monitor. Like with the controllers, I can only think of two solutions to this problem. The first solution is to get a bigger monitor. But who has that kind of money? The other more viable solution is to utilize an S-Video or Composite Video Out. Many computers, especially laptops, have these ports. The S-Video port looks like a mouse or keyboard port. The composite video looks like an RCA port with yellow coloring instead of white and red coloring. The composite video does not need anything special. A normal RCA cord will do just fine, even if it is an RCA audio cable. But the S-Video needs an S-Video cable. Local Wal-Mart or Radio Shack stores sell them.

As I mentioned previously in this article, there are a couple of places online where you can buy things that may be necessary for video game emulation schemes. This includes, of course, eBay and Lik Sang, a company that specializes in Asian video game accessories.

A great source of information on emulation is at The Emulator Zone.

Now about the ROMs, I’m not sure if it would be legal for me to disclose where to find them. But, I’ll say one thing: look where most people search for other illegal things.

Closing Remarks
I hope that people who read this will try to explore video game emulation. It is really nifty and fun (funny word)! Comment on your experiences or if you have any questions!

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Posted on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

One Response to “Play Video Games for Free on Computer”

  1. Qui a peur de Vagina Wolf Télécharger Says:

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