The term emulator gets thrown around a great deal in the video game world, referring to software that allows video games from other platforms to be played on the PC. For example, it is possible to play old games from the SNES system, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, on a PC, with the result being all but indistinguishable from the original SNES console.
The same can be done for virtually all other video game consoles, with varying degrees of success. In many cases the console games are emulated near perfectly, but in other cases there are obvious drawbacks and bugs. Either way, emulation is an incredibly impressive and interesting technology.
How do emulators work? And are emulation systems technically legal?
How Does Emulation Work?
Emulating an SNES on a PC is no small task, and it takes a great deal of time and effort to make the emulation process possible. In all cases emulation of this kind is a system of using software to recreate the console hardware. Since there is no physical SNES present, developers and programmers use software to recreate the environment of the hardware, in a software platform.
Hence, the games being run interact with the software in the exact same fashion they would with the specific hardware parts found in an SNES console. It is a very specialised and difficult thing to achieve, but this has been done for multiple consoles, via the work of unpaid programmers who simply prefer that old games are not lost to time.
It’s A Resource Costly Process
Since the PC being used for the emulation is undergoing an enormous task in emulating a console, the emulation software generally takes a great deal of processing power and computer resources. For example, emulating a PlayStation 1 can be very taxing on a computer many times as powerful as the original hardware.
This being said, one of the biggest challenges of emulator software is attempting to make it perform smoothly, reliably, and without distracting slow downs. With older consoles this has generally been done, but emulation of newer consoles will often have performance issues, unlike the smooth games of online bingo you can enjoy on the web.
Is it Legal?
Since emulation software allows for the downloading and playing of hundreds of games online, many have asked the question as to whether it is legal. The answer to this question is not as simple as might be expected. Emulation software itself is entirely legal, but downloading and playing games not already owned is considered piracy.
It should be kept in mind that if a person already owns an old SNES game, that downloading that game and playing it in an emulation software environment is not against the law. In this case, a person is free to enjoy all the emulation gaming they desire. It is the mass distribution of games to those who do not already own them that is a concern. In the case of many old SNES games, however, there is no longer any way to buy the games legally.