Should A Christian Play ROMS or Hacked Games?

When I was young, I played a lot of video games. Much more than I do now, that I am older. What I wish I still had though, were all those old games! I ended up selling most of them (I forgot what else I did with them) because I needed some money, but I wasn’t aware of their future value at that time. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have sold them at all. Since I didn’t have those games anymore nor the consoles (SNES, Genesis, NES, Game Gear, SEGA CD, Playstation) I missed playing them. I discovered there was still a way to see them come to life again, without even spending a dime!

ROMS and emulators.

Illegal Gaming

This opened a whole new world for me. Games that I never got around to buying for various reasons, I could now play. Some that were only available in Japan, whether having a proper translation or not, were now at my fingertips to consume. I read about how illegal they are since I am not paying for the game, thus I could get in legal trouble. How would they find me though? I wondered if a police officer would show up with a warrant for me, and I would end up in jail for “stealing video games”. Imagine, being in a cell with rapists, drug attics, and felons while I’m there for downloading about 1 or 2 gigabytes of video games. I didn’t care, accepted the consequences and started downloading. My main emulator was for the SNES, called zsnes. It played Genesis, NES, SNES, Super Famicom and more. I was mainly interested in games that I would never be able to play, because they never came to the USA. Titles such as: Seiken Densetsu 3 (Secret of Mana 2), Bahamut Lagoon, Tales of Phantasia, Dragonball Hyper Dimension and others. Feel free to look them up on Youtube if you’ve never heard of them.

Bahamut Lagoon, a “Final Fantasy Tactics” styled RPG….with dragons!

I was hooked on ROMS, since it was such an easy way to play video games that I either couldn’t afford, were overseas, or just weren’t sold anymore. Aside from Gamestop at that time, websites weren’t selling video games as easily as today. When I had my summers free of school, that’s when I really hit hard all those games as I was stuck at home often with nothing else to do. I eventually stopped playing them because I felt I was stealing, and I had other systems to indulge myself with (PS3/PS4/3DS).

Now that the NES and SNES Classic have been released, there are hacks that allow gamers to play any game they want on these tiny systems. They have fantastic games already, but many classics are missing. It’s frustrating to have a small collection of games, and the one you want to play isn’t available. The Virtual Console for Wii U isn’t very robust either, and they are actually closing it down soon as of this writing.

This got me thinking about ROMS again. Are they as bad as people make them out to be, and is it OK to play them as a follower of Christ? Whether you are Catholic, Christian, or under some denomination, your faith in God is involved in every area of your life. He should be involved in everything from our finances, relationships, entertainment, career, music we listen to and even video games. Playing these games is considered against the law because the fact that they exist, means someone copied the code of the game or console online when it was never meant to be. Since we are playing for free, the developers make no money from it just like watching a downloaded movie.

Obeying The Law

I have played and downloaded many ROMS and emulators in the past, mainly to play games I could never play otherwise. To answer the question if a Christian should be playing though, depends. There isn’t any scripture I can use that says “do not play ROMS” in one of the 66 books of the bible, but there are guidelines that the Apostle Paul gave us that are helpful. In cases like these, where there isn’t a verse that explains a specific thing, reading the bible in it’s context will cover a lot of ground. For every question, there is an answer in His word or His voice when we hear Him.romans-13-1-400x360.jpg

In Romans 13:1-7, it explains that we need to obey the laws that we are under. This was written to the Roman church way back when, so I can only assume that they were breaking the laws of their country. Why else would Paul have to write them a letter, and dive into that topic? If we can buy a video game legally, then support the industry and make that purchase. Best case, wait for it to go on sale! There are always online sales at Steam, PSN, Virtual Console and Xbox so there’s always a deal.

What if the game isn’t available anywhere else, especially an old one that isn’t even sold or produced? Personally, I don’t think it’s wrong to download and play. Unless the game comes out again and you can buy it, then go for it. That’s just my opinion, even if it’s a wrong one to someone else, so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Should emulators even be allowed at all, or is the recent surge of gamers buying the SNES and NES Classic a sign that people want this more? In reality, both of those systems are emulating the original system with a downloaded game. Whether it’s an exact ROM or some other kind of file, I’m not sure, but it is just an expensive (and nice looking!) emulator that anyone could download for free.

Looking forward to your comments, as this is a touchy subject for years and I can see more of this conversation rising up again.

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When not conquering digital worlds in video games, he can be found reading, watching anime, listening to music writing, and just enjoying life as a geek in the city.

7 thoughts on “Should A Christian Play ROMS or Hacked Games?

  1. I discovered emulation and ROMs back in 2005, and, being spiritually inactive at the time and fueled by childhood nostalgia, I jumped right in and started playing my favorites from the NES, SNES, Genesis, and Game Boy. I thought nothing of the consequences then, either here on Earth or in the next life, I only thought about playing these classic games again. In 2006, I discovered ROM hacking, allowing me to experience, and create, different takes on classics like Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario World.

    Since then, I’ve played dozens of hacks ranging from simple to complex. Some were amazing, some were terrible, and quite a few got obnoxiously difficult. I also began actively creating ROM hacks and taking the hobby quite seriously in late 2010, eventually becoming a prolific Super Mario World hacker. In 2016, I expanded my hacking to Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2, eventually releasing a fairly simple Sonic 2 hack for the 2017 Sonic Hacking Contest.

    Last November, with some prompting from my mother, I prayed, which is something I can rarely bring myself to do. In my prayer, I asked for help with my soda addiction and, thinking that the root of said addiction could be spiritual guilt, I asked if ROM hacking was a sin, and if so, I asked God to help me pull myself away from it. During this time, my Sonic 2 hack was nearing completion as the entry period for the Hacking Contest drew near.

    After the Hacking Contest, I experienced a lack of motivation to hack that lasted through the month of December. During this time, I still had a Super Mario World hack to complete that I had started sometime in the late summer. A couple days ago, I finally resumed work on this hack, only the run into seemingly impossible-to-solve technical problems.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences with ROM hacking. Well, this is just my opinion, so please take it just as that. If you feel from God to pull away from ROM hacking, then I would recommend you stop doing it. Aside from that, I’m not 100% sure but is that even legal to hack an older game like Sonic 2 or Super Mario World? I mean, I don’t see the big deal because your not making profit off of it….but I’ve never looked into that.

      Seek God, seek His will for your life and you will definitely find it. The bible teaches us to: Ask, Seek, and Knock. To me, that means Ask) Pray Seek) Start looking for practical answers Knock) Take action for what you are believing (or having faith for). God bless ya, thanks for reading my post!

  2. I am also a gamer/Christian and I have been asking this question to myself. Accordingly to the government downloading a older game (for instance I am thinking about a 26 years old game that was released to a single system and you can’t buy the game anywhere (except used)) is illegal. But on the moral side personally I don’t see any issue with it (unless the game get’s re-released somehow), I am not able to buy and pay any money to the creators anymore and the game seems to be forgotten. Sometimes I even think it may be positive because I can discuss about the game with others and bring others to play the game which somehow could revive the interest in the game and possibly in a sequel for the company owning the IP.

    Of course if there’s a new copy available that’s a different matter, in that case I think buying the game is the correct way, even if we decide to play the older version for some reason.

    I may pray to God to get some insight in this.

    1. I think its ok to play a game like you described. You can’t buy it anymore and the license is who knows where. I am not an expert in emulation laws but to me, I would play it. If I can buy it I would buy it to support the developers and the game 🙂

    2. Update: I actually changed my mind a bit regarding this. As Christians I believe we also need to take in account that we can’t have everything and we need to be happy with what we are able to get even if it is not much. I have actually acquired most of the old games that I wanted to play from second hand now, some are too expensive and I will not acquire them. Others are getting re-releases or remakes, so I will buy those instead. Others I found the Japanese releases that are much cheaper, so I bought that, though I am not sure if I will ever be able to play them, without learning some basic Japanese. Though I feel more peace this way, than playing something that I don’t own.

  3. I used to do it liberally, but not so much now, though there are exceptions. What people do not know is that a large majority of research, assets, and other things comes down to us today from the contributions of emulator authors and rom dumpers or researchers. Some assets used in modern remakes of classic games such as Sonic survive mostly due to the interest and dedication of rom researchers and dumpers getting copies of prototypes, dumping them, and extracting things from them. Christian Whitehead, the guy behind Sonic Mania, started as a romhacker under the name of Taxman years ago on the internet, and it was things like the Sonic 2 beta that inspired such a passionate drive from fans for these kinds of things. Rather than berating him, Sega appreciated his work and approved of his demo which would become Sonic Mania. Often times, the source code, and earlier beta copies were wiped years ago and the companies themselves did not even have them in their archives. This was also true when Square-Enix reverse engineered Kingdom Hearts for the remasters. Imagine the difficulty of that process! They said it was NOT easy! I also have dumped a few prototype cartridges that are now distributed and preserved on the internet. While I do not promote software piracy (or any piracy for that matter) which is done too liberally, I do think it has it’s benefits and has helped raise awareness of cult classics that were later localized, remade, and released on modern consoles. Remaking a game from the final compiled copy is hard, and many romhackers have said it’s even harder than programming a game from the ground up. Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of those infamous victims of lost assets that kept it from getting a rerelease, but if I hear that it’s coming out, I’m going to buy it in a heartbeat! So if a game that falls under these circumstances gets a legitimate release, buy it!

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