Emulation: The Benevolent Pirates of MAME
MAME, as many of you know, is the bomb. It is the mother of all emulators, and if it were a lady, the mother of my children (sorry Cath, we go way back). This multi-system software specializes in Arcade games, allowing you to play 3,296 games and their other 3,000+ rom variations. But where can you buy this godsend? Nowhere - retail stores don't carry it (no single entity owns the Mame library - there are thousands of companies represented). Can you download it? Nope. I've seen pieces in torrents, but not the whole thing, you l33t hack3r d00dz. Besides, it would take you a silly amount of time. You have to go about it the 3rd world country way - find the shameless bootleggers. The twist? They are out in the open, and even worse... doing it for free (gasp!).
There are a lot of fan sites out there that host the most popular roms, but they are being shut down every day because of copyright blah blah. It's not like I could ever go buy the Bad Dudes at Walmart, but anyway - it keeps getting harder to relive the memories. Well, now for the cost of a handful of tokens you can get frickin THIRTEEN DVDS OF ARCADE GAMES. Before you read this story, you may want to get a lawyer... and a PO Box.
Seriously, I don't know how illegal this is or if they are cracking down on it, but it's pretty flagrant. For about 30 bucks, you can find a people willing to ship you the complete 60+ gig rom collection on DVD, Laserdisk, CD rom, whatever. Think about that. If you played one game per day, it would take you nine years to see all of them. Look at this guy's offering - Arcade, N64, Sega Saturn DVD sets???! It's like a Chinese open air market exploded on the internet. PLUS! The DVDs contain scans and photos of the original cabinet art, so the only thing missing is the smelly arcade cabinet and the broken coin slot.
Do they feel it's illegal? Eh... nah. Their arguement: they are just the pipes and what you're paying for is the service, not the roms. As long as you are not charging for the roms, you're not committing a crime. Loophole or bullshit? I don't care. I like the concept. To call them "Mame Pirates" would be insulting in their world - the correct term is actually "Mame Burner". The Mame Pirate is the guy trying to make a big sticker profit on copyrighted wares, whereas these guys are just giving the stuff away, making a sheepish $5 for the trip to the post office at best. They are missionaries - Mame Theresas, if you will.
The most organized ones even have "packages" you can buy - a cheaper 4 DVD set, an even smaller 1 DVD essential collection, and the kicker - a yearly subscription service where they ship you the updates. That's nuts. The typical Mame Burner will actually do it for free if you send them the blank DVDs and a small shipping fee, which seems less illegal somehow. It's like sharing between friends at that point, just like copying a buddy's CDs to MP3. Oh wait, that's naughty too. Remember: share as kids, but not as adults.
So where can you find these Robin Hoods of Roms? They aren't hiding in Sherwood, that's for sure. You don't have to scour IRC either - you just have to know what to google for. Most have proper web sites with FAQ's and customer support. It's legal after all, isn't it? Eh...
Rather go about it the slow and painful way? I'm with you on that - if the feds decide these people are the antichrist, I don't want to be a line item on somebody's paypal account. Get the emulator at Mame.net and search for Mame Roms on Google. Grab them while you can! But only if you own all the original 3,000 arcade cabinets, of course. And don't do anything I wouldn't do. ;)
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