Out With the Old

by John Hardie

Greetings my video game bretheren and welcome to another edition of ROM-page. As many of you may have noticed by looking at the above by-line, I have taken over this column from the previous author, Sean Kelly. When our fearless editor first tagged me to take over the column, I was a bit apprehensive. Sean had certainly provided a bit of fire and brimstone over the years with his sharp-edged tongue. But then I realized that his ranting had become nothing more than boring drivel as of late. The more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that I could do this. I had plenty of gripes, dislikes, and pet peeves just like the next guy. My courage was gathering steam and when Joe told me that Sean would be mopping floors and keeping things tidy around the office I knew there was no turning back.

So here we are on our first journey together. I hope to bring up some points that will make you think about both sides of the coin, so to speak. I hope to stimulate your brain and have you putting yourself in the situations presented. You don't have to agree with me but since I'm the one writing this column, it doesn't really matter.

Our first topic for discussion is on everybody's favorite subject; prototypes. Place yourself in this scenario...

As you're jetting back from your vacation in California, you whip out your Atari Lynx and start blasting away at a good game of Xybots. The gentleman next to you peers over and after some small talk, he mentions that he used to program games for Atari back in 1983. As the Lynx falls from your hands and rolls under the seat in front of you, you manage to pry your tongue out of your throat and ask the guy what games he worked on. After rattling off some common 2600 titles, he finishes up with the standard "...plus some unreleased stuff" line. Your heart beats a little faster and your knees feel weak but you try to maintain your composure and not start squealing like a schoolgirl. You ask the man what unreleased 2600 games he worked on and he spouts off some titles that have already been found but finishes up with "...and Elevator Action. I still have all that old junk in a box at my house." Your balls retract so far that they bump into your bladder and cause you to piss your pants. Deftly, you release your meal tray and let it fall to your lap in an attempt to cover up your indiscretion. A few deep breaths and you resume the conversation determined to score the coveted goods. Your new found strength is driven by your desire to own something that is surely one-of-a-kind. A proto that no one else owns; a holy grail without question!

You get involved in a deep conversation with the programmer where you display your knowledge and interest in classic games but at the same time, try not to give him too much idea that what he has would be worth a mint. The conversation, and the flight, end with him saying he'd be willing to sell his old stuff and the two of you exchanging numbers. Success!!! Soon you would be a god in the classic gaming community!

A couple of weeks and several phone calls later you manage to hook up with the programmer and he tells you that the only proto he could find was his 95% complete Elevator Action Loaner Cart. No problem you figure since this was the main thing you wanted anyway. You ask him what he wants for that "old" Atari cart in a tone that makes it sound like you're doing him a favor by buying it. Suddenly your jaw dislocates from dropping so hard when your new friend tells you that he wants $2000 for Elevator Action, citing the incredible rarity as the primary reason for slamming you in the ass. What to do?! We're still talking about something that no one else has. You decide that this is a once in a lifetime shot and agree to pay the ungodly sum.

Two weeks later, your prize arrives! Cuter than a newborn baby and more fun to fondle than your wife, you plug the cart in and actually do squeal as you play a game of Elevator Action on your 2600. The game is incredible and you unplug it so that you can fondle it more. A quick ballet-style dance throughout the house and you return to have another game. You plug the cart in and power on to the beautiful musi... Huh?

Nothing! No picture! You power off then on again. Black screen. Nothingness! A few more times... On! Off! On! Off! Nothing but darkness! You crumble to the ground sobbing. Clasping your hands together you kneel before your VCS altar and beg the God of Protos to let your game live once more (a trick you learned as a kid when you prayed to the God of Porcelain to let you live once more after a heavy night of drinking).

Once again the Gods have smiled upon you because after removing and re-inserting the cart, the game appeared on the screen as you praise the ancients for their benevolence.

This sobering lesson makes you vow to back up the eprom in the cart just in case of any future calamity. You scout around for a reliable soul who's up to the task and are referred to Sean Kelly (so that's what he's doing instead of writing this column...) Sean agrees to back up the ROM and to put it on a CD for you as an archive. Long story short. You FedEx the cart to Sean. A week later you have your one-of-a-kind cart back along with a CD backup of the data on it. All is safe and good with the world.

Now, here's where your dilemma begins. Word has gotten out that 2600 Elevator Action has been found and people are emailing you asking you to dump the ROM so it can be made available for everyone to use with an emulator. What do you do? On one hand, you just paid $2000 for this game. Why should you give it away for free. Will releasing the ROM de-value the actual proto? What if someone started making carts and passing them off as real protos??? On the other side of the coin, you'd like to be able to share your enjoyment of the game with others while still protecting your investment.

Now here's where I get pissed! There are people out there that believe that you are obligated to share the ROM with them. They don't want to hear "No" for an answer, it's their right to have the ROM because you have it. Did they pay for it? NO! Did they piss their pants for it? NO! Did they do anything to help you get it? NO!!! Yet they believe they are entitled or owed the ROM image. The point is there's no right or wrong answer here. It's the owners right to do what he or she pleases with it. If the owner wants to share it, fine. We should thank them profusely and be grateful for the opportunity to play. If the owner wants to smash the eprom into tiny pieces with a hammer, that's their business. While myself and others might be pissed and want to smash them with a hammer, it's too damn bad. They paid for it. They own it. They can do what they want, and are not obligated to cater to anyone. Sure I'd be pissed but what aggravates me even more are the people who whine, complain, insult, and even threaten in order to put pressure on the owner and/or party that backed up the ROM.

Whew* Let me calm down for a second. I was going to cover another situation but I think I've rambled on enough for my first column and I'm also out of beer. I really would like to hear your opinions on the above topic. What would you do in this situation? Feel free to email me with your comments at: jhardie@pipeline.com

And don't forget, Classic Gaming Expo 2001 is scheduled for August 11 and 12 at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas. Joe, Sean, Tom, and myself hope to whip up the best show yet. Updated info can be found at the web-site: www.cgexpo.com

Hope to meet you there, my friends!


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Last updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2007 04:05 PM