Abandonware: Retro-gaming at its finest

Always wondered what it would feel like playing the video games of your youth? Understandably, the younger generation, those belonging to the age of Gameboy and Playstation wouldn’t experience the same kind of nostalgia as those who had actually played games on relics like the Apple IIc or PC XT.

What if you were given the chance to play these games? Would you go for action with something like Blood? Or perhaps you’re a strategy game type of gamer who’d go for Battletech: The Crescent Hawks’ Revenge? Role-playing games? Why not suit up and hie off on an adventure in the fantasy world of Krynn battling the Dark Queen or a host of Death Knights?

The Crescent Hawks Revenge

A scene from Battletech: The Crescent Hawks’ Revenge.

Impossible? No. With abandonware, anything is possible.

Before you go running off in search of these classics, you have to know what abandonware is. Abandonware is defined as any PC or console game that is 1) at least four years old and 2) not being sold or supported by the company that produced it or by any other company who has rights to it.

What if a company decides to license a game that’s supposed to be abandonware? Well, simple: It ceases to be abandonware.

A lot has been said about abandonware, particularly along the lines of it being software piracy. According to United States laws and treaties, a copyright belongs to the author of a software product for 70 years beyond the life of the author or 95 years after the copyright date. Before this period lapses, nobody—except the author, that is—has the right to copy and distribute the software.

Proponents of abandonware, however, have countered the naysayers, citing some legal mumbo jumbo that is, in all accounts, applicable only in the United States. Suffice it to say, these abandonware guys are fighting to preserve classic games—at least that’s what they claim. They even cite examples, a sample of which can be read below.

“A good example of the problem the debate over copyright law is already causing is the going on right now in the movie industry. Decaying nitrate-based film from the early days of motion pictures may not be restored because Moviecraft and other companies that restore and reissue these movies can’t do so because they can’t identify the copyright holders and the movies seem to never pass into the public domain. Preservation activities, in general, and digital preservation activities, in particular, are made more difficult when material never enters the public domain.

“This is why we have abandonware. If these games are not shared and preserved now, do you think anyone will have a copy of IBM’s Alley Cat in 2079 when its copyright expires?”

For more information on abandonware, enter the word in the Google search box and open yourselves to the possibility of reliving your early gaming years. Or better yet, get started by clicking on this. —Joel S. Tan

Author’s Note: Some games are so old that the only links we can provide them with are to their wikipedia entries.

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