It's a well-known problem with emulation that you have a strong 'embarrassment of riches' factor, and this prevents you from really playing anything properly. You tend to scan the list of games, play something half-heartedly for five minutes, then move onto the next. For me it's partly down to the transitory feeling of emulated games. They don't feel like they're there. Which is odd, because they're just as much there as a genuine copy - when all is said and done it's just data in a system. Still, the psychological effect contributes to that feeling of not really wanting to devote large amounts of time to anything. Also, it has to be said that many times I've played several hours of a big game on an emulator, only to return at a later date and have the save state and file simply not work any more.

I'm a bit of an archivist when it comes to computer games, keeping complete romsets from a variety of systems. 99% of which I'll never even load, but I feel that as many people as possible ought to be keeping this stuff safe, what with the lamentable attitude of the industry towards its own heritage. I can fully imagine a situation akin to the one the film world is in now, with so many early works lost forever due to bad storage or neglect. Mainly I'm talking about early computer games here rather than console efforts. Consoles always have enjoyed a more widespread appeal and distribution in terms of games, and of course the media tends to be a lot more durable. I'm more about preserving the old Spectrum games, the PC games with the booklets, maps and various trinkets, the lavish and attractive packaging and so on.

This all ties into the playing aspect. I realise that I dabble too much and I don't get much genuine satisfaction from many games. Finishing Mass Effect and the two Tomb Raider games recently brought back memories of getting a new game and completely devoting myself to finishing it, before the days of easy access to everything. Revelling in the gameworld, making maps and keeping notes. My recent foray into DOS gaming brought this into full perspective in that so much abandonware is available it's hard to know where to start. So I made a decision... I would only play the games I own a physical, legitimate copy of.

Immediately the desired effect took place. I found myself sitting down with a game purchased from ebay (in this case Lands of Lore), and playing it properly. Another important factor is having the manuals and references to hand. I know you can download this stuff in text format or even a PDF, but nothing beats having the original documentation to flick through. It adds a surprising amount to the experience. That, and many times I've loaded up some RPG with only the basic grasp of the controls and what's required of me, walked around a bit and talked to some NPCs, then gone off and gotten killed. No matter, I just moved onto the next game that took my fancy rather than learning what I had to do.

This isn't an argument against emulation - indeed, the vast majority of these games I will be playing through emulation, on DOSBox, or WinUAE, or Spectaculator, etc. Just for the hardware convenience. It is however a solution I've settled on to get me playing older games properly again. Now instead of scanning through thousands of files on the PC I just scan through my shelves for something to play.

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