John over at 61fps has posited a question of sorts: namely, is he the only one who doesn’t really care for emulation?
It is nice to know I’m not alone.
I think Sharkey is consistently baffled when he casually talks about playing via emulation and I sort of shrug and say, “Eh.” He finds nothing odd about having beaten preposterously tough games like Dracula X using arrows and the Tab button. To me, that sounds utterly horrible. I don’t even really enjoy emulating with a good USB D-pad; games just don’t feel right under emulation. Except really perfect emulation, like most of the Virtual Console systems — and even then, I think much of the appeal is that the games are running in their “proper” environment. That is to say, running from a console to a television.
I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve come to realize that there is some ineffable quality to a real game played on a real system that even Virtual Console can’t quite match. Maybe it’s actually a lack of quality? The scanlines, the shoddy A/V-out technology, the constant risk that this will be the time your batteries conk out, or that you won’t be able to make the contacts work right thanks to the NES’s stupid spring-loading system. Et cetera. But no, there’s something else — something more primal. There’s a certain feeling I have when I see an older game running on its native platform that I just don’t have when the same software is downloaded as a ROM, or even as a standalone Wii Channel. It could very well be some sort of nostalgia, or simply a Pavlovian response to when these games were new and expensive and hard to come by and generally just precious, a feeling completely lost when you can download several hundred of them in an hour’s time.
I suppose that’s another part of what I’ve been trying to capture in the giant console purge-and-rebuilding program (pogrom?) I’ve undertaken of late: the sense of visceral presence in games. I even picked up a copy of Rockman 5 while I was in Japan despite being so thoroughly unimpressed with my emulated experience a few months ago; I have a sneaking suspicion that maybe if I play it the way nature intended — on a cartridge, in a console, on a TV — maybe I’ll feel differently.
On the other hand, maybe this is all just me growing more demented in my old age.