Ever see someone play Pokemon on their phone or wanted to play Chrono Trigger on your computer? Then emulation is the way to go! But… is it wrong? Is it wrong to play a game for free on your computer or phone without permission of the company who developed the game?
Cooper Daniel Barham
The subject of emulators is one in which I still do not possess a solid standing. I rarely emulate ROMs often myself, though I have in the past, but I don’t hold much aversion to the idea. In general, and with no acting moral principle to guide this decision, I find it’s alright to turn to emulators when the games or consoles of interest are discontinued or very difficult to find. That being said, if I could find and sustain an emulator for a newer generation console, I don’t know if I’d turn down the opportunity. Perhaps I would.
The major issue most people address with emulation is that it’s fundamentally stealing. They aren’t wrong. Perhaps my conscience is numbed to this by the fact that most of the games I emulate I’ve either already owned at some point in the past, or by supporting the developer/publisher in other ways, such as buying other products of theirs or talking up their products to others.
I’m likely in the minority with this opinion, but I do think it’s okay to emulate, as long as you don’t only emulate. A subjective, individual-oriented line, I know, but emulating has certainly not stopped me from dropping a ton of money on video games in the last several years, and now I’m too much of a supporter of this industry to see that change anytime soon.
Mike Pyatt Jr.
I can’t lie. I didn’t start using emulators until recently; maybe the last three or four years. I like them a lot. What I didn’t like about them was the fact it really felt like I was stealing the games I played. Sure, the gaming companies don’t really gain much, if any, revenue from the games that I would purchase on my older systems. At the same time, I’m still using those specific titles illegally in a way.
All of that being said, I used the phrase “felt like” when I mentioned stealing games because it could be said that it’s not stealing. Due to some complicated sharing laws overseas, there are loopholes that make it possible for us in the States to download them. It’s the same laws that allow us to stream those movies and songs for free on those shady looking websites.
Because of that I won’t say that it’s okay to emulate games that you don’t own. It’s stealing. Stealing is wrong. However, I won’t sit here and condemn anybody for doing something that I still struggle with myself. If you’re not doing it already, don’t start. If you are doing it, illegally, stop it.
The Bible clearly says that stealing is not okay (Ephesians 4:28). The big question is whether or not copying and sharing a work is the same as stealing. And… the Bible really doesn’t say anything about that. The idea of “intellectual property” is not a Biblical concept. Storytelling, for instance, has been around forever, and there’s not a single Bible verse that says you can own a story and no one else can use “your” plot and characters. It just isn’t in there.
But does that make it okay?
I’m going to say that there is nothing necessarily morally wrong with game emulation. I can’t call something a sin just because the State says it’s illegal. The State doesn’t get to say what’s okay and what’s not before God. God gets to say that and he’s chosen not to say anything about intellectual property in his Word.
Here’s something God does say about obeying the law.
“When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” (Matt. 17:24-27)
There are two focal parts of this passage. The first is this: “Then the sons are free.” You, as a child of God, are free. You are part of an otherworldly kingdom, one that is entirely free from the world system.
The second is this: “However, not to give offense to them…” Just because you are free, doesn’t mean you should live like a complete outlaw when it comes to the world.
Basically, I think game emulation is not immoral at all, but it is illegal.
I think the easy answer to this question is this:
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 7:2)
I think creators of a work deserve to be paid for their work, so I try to support them.
I don’t think copyright law is perfect. I have issues with companies fighting to change the law and making it illegal to use intellectual properties for longer and longer periods of time to hold onto stories that they did not create.
So treat others the way you want to be treated. If you don’t want your ideas or works copied, don’t copy others’ ideas or works. If you genuinely don’t consider copying stealing, even if it is done to you, then I think you’re closer to the Biblical ideal, but the world still has copyright laws. You are free, but try not to offend others with your freedom. (I Corinthians 8:9)
Emulating games may not be a sin, and it might be okay before God, but the laws of the land say it’s illegal, so it’s not okay to them.
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