Gaming Below the Radar

Gaming Below the Radar
Obscurity Below the Radar

John Szczepaniak | 13 Dec 2005 07:00
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The second event is, four blue 64DD development disks have appeared, and they may contain Mother 3. Speculation is intense, but there are problems getting the disks to load. It requires specialist equipment, which is in short supply. But many are pledging assistance. Collectors are also reported to have offered undisclosed five figure sums to own these disks, assuming they're genuine.

Some unreleased games are legally so hot, corporations feverishly pursue those who have copies in order to stop their mere mentioning. Mr. F from Florida elaborates, "There are a few wealthy collectors who have been generous and shared with the community, but companies dislike such people, and have threatened and/or taken legal action againstthem. Because of this, people who want to contribute to the community, and help build the archives, need to do so discreetly. Until the day that companies realise that people are interested in these games and would love to see them, archiving such information and media will remain a relatively underground task." And so, I assure everyone I won't mention that people are playing Shenmue on the Saturn, Robotech on the N64, or running the halls of Biohazard 1.5.

Community Camaraderie
And there I was, thinking I'd hit the big time when getting hold of Propeller Arena. Like so many previously exalted commodities, it's now common amongst the ranks, becoming part of the great online data stores used for archiving. A treasure trove of illegal and oh-so-highly prized ones and zeros. I was granted only brief access to just one such secret and bountiful oasis of data, strictly for research purposes and validating people's claims. These watering holes are reserved specifically for loyal community participants, and is indicative of the camaraderie present. If you want to take, you have to give as well.

"Some people have gushed over how amazing and wonderful it is for someone to amass these things and be willing to share them. I archived [such media] until a time when I had the means to share it with others who cared to see what the corporations [were hiding]. Much of the software collected has been submitted either by contacts I know, or anonymous individuals who for various reasons I have decided to trust. At one point, I was open to letting [everyone] have access, but it became a problem as everyone would come in, get what they wanted, and never contribute anything. After changing it so that I had to approve each person's access, I saw a dramatic improvement in how people treat the service that I provide." - Mr. F from Florida again, one of many illustrious data keepers.

And playing by the rules is certainly worth it, since within their bosom is kept things such as unreleased copies of Sega CD, Turbo Duo, PS1, Dreamcast and Saturn games. There are also NDA protected documents for all the latest hardware, not to mention an abundance of exclusive video footage and images. Plus other data that would make a man's blood run cold with awe.

How do communities acquire such hardware, software and data? Simple. Employee theft, company bankruptcy and liquidation, sheer luck, and anonymous contacts. Several set up dummy companies for the sole purpose of purchasing assets when others go into liquidation. It doesn't cost much to set up a registered company, allowing you to transcend the black market. ASSEMbler explains, "I have started my own company devoted to such efforts. It allows me to legally buy items, to have an ability to preserve whole failed companies or at least some of their assets as complete."

The close-knit community spirit is strong, while the group is also apprehensive of outsiders. These communities have no promotion, those who seek the rare find their own way. Readers seeking them out should avoid the social faux-pas of demanding free access to items, as ASSEMbler points out, "I would release all I have, but the result is that I can be held legally accountable. Information wants to be free, and eventually it will be, but not with my name directly attached. I shouldn't be expected to give away the fruits of hard labor."

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