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February 2017 Retro Gaming Article

February 16, 2017 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

SNES games lost by the USPS brings up questions about the true origin of ROM files

Nintendo SNES Games
The loss of $10,000 in SNES games is devastating and most likely a crime that will never be resolved. It also brings up the need to qualify ROM files.
I had not previously heard of the SNES Preservation Project and wish it's existence had come to me under better circumstances. The project involved dumping every SNES game cartridge to ROM files. This would guarantee an authentic and valid ROM file. Generous collectors offered to loan our their game carts for this purpose. Unfortunately, a shipment valued at $10K was lost by the US Postal Service.

This leaves the project in a bad situation that seems likely to end it entirely. It's hard not to have sympathy especially in the wake of the morons who comment about postal insurance, as if they've achieved a new level of brilliance. If nothing else, I hope this disaster ( and importance of the SNES Preservation Project) sheds light on the precarious world of ROMs.

That ROM you downloaded: is it valid or hacked?
ROMs as a topic seem to waiver between illegality and the saving grace of retro gaming. There's quite a gap in these polar oposites. The notion of the SNES Preservation Project shows the importance of ROMs and why their copyright owners need to address access to these precious files for the betterment and continuation of retro gaming.

As time marches forward more hardware and games are lost to simple ignorance. Some folks think games are plentiful and throw them away like common trash. At the same time, these precious items wear out over time. Either way, video games are valuable and precious regardless of their perceived condition.

Despite questionable legality, ROMs are plentiful around the internet. Playing your favorite retro games isn't terribly difficult. However, as we look to ROMs as an archival solution, we have to realize the validity of online ROMs. The truth is; many of them are not true replications of their purported original games. Some are hacked. Others modified. There can be any number of alterations that may not be discernable until you get deep into a game.

Unless YOU dumped the ROM, how do you know if a file is real & valid?
The SNES Preservation Project was taking the ROMs from the Nintendo-issued cartridges which ensures a true ROM file of the original game. The need for such a project shows the unreliability of the files we see online. I've read articles saying that in many cases, Nintendo doesn't have valid ROM files for many games from across the many consoles they've released.

True or not, having the real game carts dumped is an important form of video game preservation. Without prior knowledge of this SNES project, there may be ongoing efforts like this for a a variety of game libraries. I can only hope the results wind up in the hands of conservators who will use them to preserve the amazing games we played as kids and those we enjoyed much later.

This effort needs to involve the copyright holders to bring legitimacy to such a collection. If you love retro games, look for ways to help support their preservation! Future generations will thank you :)

Feb 23 update:
The widespread coverage of this missing package prompted the USPS to actually do something and find it. Apparently, the package has been located and properly delivered to the recipient. Although he's no longer going to use such shipping methods, the SNES Preservation Project is back on!

We highly recommend never sending valuables via any package delivery company and certainly not the USPS. If you must, insure your package. Far more things go missing than you may realize. I'm confident this package would have been written off without any interaction from the carrier had it not been for all the public attention. If you need something done, mount a campaign of complaints.

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