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Classic Gaming is the recent phenomenon, containing a lot of but not entirely the same thing as gaming nostalgia, in which current gamers are interested in playing older, supposedly inferior, games, often for systems and videogame consoles that are no longer in production. These people recognize that it is harder to make a good game at any time than it is to take advantage of current technology, and that looks are not everything. A person who persists in playing Ms. Pac-Man at the local arcade instead of Tekken Tag Tournament is a classic gamer, whether he claims such title or not.

Classic gamers are aided in their interests by the recent advances in emulation technology, which allow one to simulate less powerful computers completely in software on current hardware, allowing them to run the game programs without having access to the original devices, or even the original physical media. The software has, in many cases, been copied off of the original media and made available in special files that the emulation programs can read. However, in most cases it is software piracy to use an emulator to play a copy of a game if the user does not own a physical copy of the original. Classic gamers are hindered by the copyrights on the original game software, which are often zealously protected by its original holder and trade organizations, even if the game has been out of production for decades. This is because the game programs are viewed as a commodity by the company that produced them, and that the company views no responsibility towards the game other than concerning whatever profit from it can still be derived. So usually, instead of releasing it for new users to enjoy and to contribute to the game’s legacy, the owner sits on it until it is forgotten or nostalgic interest increases to the point where a re-release becomes profitable.

There are valid issues on both sides, that of the company which has invested time, money and resources in the production of the game in order to make a profit, and those of the users who enjoy and remember the game. Some companies have recognized the trend towards classic gaming by releasing compilations of their older software, often running on their own emulators, for more recent systems. For example, some time back Activision released a number of their old Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 titles running on an emulator that itself runs on Windows 95. While this is an excellent solution for the most popular older games, it is unlikely to work for more obscure titles that are simply not profitable to re-release in any form. Because of this, a large portion of our brief technological heritage is in danger of being forgotten.

(Thanks to yerricde for a correction.)