I wanted to share an area of research I’m currently engaged with, particularly looking at what are typically referred to as Bootleg Consoles as meaningful social artifacts that make up regional gaming identities.
Broadly, the term bootleg console can be used to refer to any third party video game device that plays another manufacturer’s software without the intent permission from the original developer. Bootleg consoles of the past had traditionally been cloned devices that enable one to play physical software on a non-licensed device. During the early years of the industry, these types of devices sprung up all around the world in areas left untapped by big name game developers (Atari, Sega, Nintendo, etc.) and many countries had their own variations that they fondly remember.
Modern bootleg consoles exist somewhere between cloned consoles and straight emulation, and many device tend to be marketed as all-in-one devices similar to official products like the NES Classic or Sega Genesis Mini. These devices tend to feature a swath of pirated games at a fraction of the cost of official products, with the most common platform pirated still being the Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System.
Looking more critically at these devices as platforms that are more than just cheap cash-ins or pirateware may yield interesting results about gaming more broadly, and how the industry as created a platform hierarchy through I.P and access.
One way that I am examining this project is through a twitter account that collects, documents, and share many of these types of devices. You can check the twitter account @Bootlegconsoles.
The intent of this account is to share knowledge and experiences around these devices, and does not condone piracy. You can support this project by simply sharing or subscribing to this twitter account, but also by sharing your own experiences with these devices!
I’ll be sure to share more info on this project as it progresses.