The Agony and the Ecstasy.
The merits of MAME have been well publicised. If you are reading this, dear Rodent, you already know the upside of this extraordinary piece of software. If by some chance you’ve mistakenly stumbled across this article in search of detailed instructions of how to make a bomb from fertilizer, washing up liquid, and a breadbin, here’s a quick reminder of what we’re talking about.
Originally launched in 1997, MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) v.0.1 was produced with the sole intention of “documenting” the hardware and software of Arcade Video Games. It has now turned into something of a monster – now archiving something like 6000 arcade Roms, allowing us all to witness many hundreds of lost gems. The guys who work on this deserve medals – when was the last time you thanked them? I would argue that MAME was and continues to be the single most important gaming release ever. We cannot allow the heritage of our passion to be forgotten – thankfully MAME ensures this will never happen. Simply put, it truly is the ultimate piece of homebrew.
Insy tinsy teeny weeny yellow dah dah dum de d…
er... no that doesn’t work does it.
Odd to think that we now take MAME for granted – of course it was never the intention for MAME to be proliferated as much as it is now. I guess the distribution is now so out of control, it would be impossible for the creators or the owners of the IPs to crackdown on its underground movement. And quite right too – it’s important and sacred in its own right, but it’s doubly important that the “kids” (you and me) get to experience the embryos of modern console games.
We all own MAME, or if we don’t - we know where to get it. Search on Ebay or find a friendly Rom burner - expect to pay no more than a tenner for the media and no-hassle factor, and Bob’s your worryingly overfriendly family “friend”. From there you’ve got tons of options. Lob it on your PC with a front end, and you’re away. For ultimate MAME shenanigans though, you need to get yourself a JAMMA cab, chuck a loaded PC in it, go to those nice people at Ultimarc to buy some buttons, spinners, joysticks, techy bits, get the cab fairies to put it all together for you, and then you will have the ultimate MAME experience.
Bigger! Bigger! BIGGER!!
Do you want to break down those embarrassing “well yeah, actually I like to play videogames” barriers at your next dinner party? Stick your thirty-something golf-playing male guests in front of Half Life 2, and they’ll think you’re a dull twat. Stick them in front of your MAME cab, and they’ll squeal “Scramble!! Its fucking Scramble for fucks sake!!! I spent all my pocket money in the summer holidays of ‘84 on that!! Diane! DI-ANE!!!! Come and look at this!!!”
I’ve seen this with my own eyes. Suddenly you are the coolest cat in town, and they want to know where they can get “one of these” for their lounge. Before you know it, Diane has sauntered over (absolute Minx by the way - definitely on “the list”), put her glass of Chablis on the coffee table and is now playing Pacman (she was changing nappies and paying the babysitter forty-five minutes ago). Your missus might be pissed off, because your wedding photos have taken second place to “that fucking monstrosity in the corner”, but hey, you’re doing it for the cause. Seriously? I’ve witnessed MAME perform miracles in this respect.
All nice and lovely then.
“Mista Luva Luva”.
Or is it? You see, with thousands (yes thousands) of games at your fingertips, it’s actually completely unworkable. There are umpteen versions of Space Invaders, seven versions of Galaxian and more different styles of Mah-jong that you don’t know where to start. Fancy a game of Defender? Sure – which flavour? You can have Red romset, Blue romset, green romset or yellow romset with a cherry on top. What’s the difference? Fuck knows. They all look the same to me. But of course they should all be on there – it’s an archive first and foremost, not a piece of entertainment. It’s your job to filter out what you don’t need, you filthy pirate.
Have you read half the stuff about the
innuendo in Captain Pugwash? – no
wonder I like porn.
Then there’s the choices left after you’ve filtered out all the cack. Fire up a game of Asteroids, have a quick go. Get pummelled by the little bastard UFO like you used to all those years ago, and press quit. Back to the list. Arkanoid next. Keep the ball in the air, bust through the blocks, lose all three lives in less than a minute, again, just like you used to – aaaaand next! Galaxians: left, right, fire, die, quit, onto the next game you remember. Defender! Up, down crazy sounds just like in 1980 when you had a Grifter and spots, die in 20 seconds (how do ALL those laser shots miss a green alien that’s hardly moving?)….repeat ad infinitum. Get the picture? With so much choice, you feel like you have to move onto the next Rom in case you’re missing something better. Think of it like Sky Digital. Hundreds of channels, all of which are potentially interesting and varied – but actually, in reality, there’s nothing on….
Nothing on Telly…geddit?
So it’s not worth it then?
Well no, far from it. You see, over time, you rediscover the old games and discover the new games that you really want to play regularly, and you’ll find that despite all this ammo, you’ll return to your favourite weapon – just like in any FPS you care to mention. For me currently, this is Robotron, Tempest, Metal Slug, Galaga and Hypersports. Everything else is just filler – it gets the odd look-in. Games come and go off your playlist as and when you’ve had your fill. It’s the biggest Blockbuster store you’ve ever visited. Some of its wares are truly shit, some of it is really interesting – ALL of it is important. Check out some of the early Cinematronics Vector games – absolute genius.
You need to own MAME and it needs to be somewhere where you can find it and fire it up easily. It’s like the first aid kit in your kitchen, the bible you’ve got somewhere, or that big dictionary sitting on your bookshelf. You won’t need it every day, like your Xbox or your PSP, but you need it to hand. It’s important, and it needs to be on your PC. Install it. Browse it. Play some of it. Discover what the fuss was about with Dig Dug. Play Metal Slug through to the end. For god’s sake, play Robotron.
Yes it’s a pain, yes it’s too big to swallow whole, but it’s a huge Candy shop and there is something in there for every single person out there.
Nicola Salmoria, I salute you Sir.