Authenticity is Relative

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For those interested in video game preservation, I highly recommend giving the following article a careful read: “In Search of Scanlines: The Best CRT Monitor for Retro Gaming.” Considering the wave of acquisitions at MoMA my colleagues and I have been spending a whole lot of time thinking about how display hardware shapes the visual experience of a game, and in each case, what should be considered the ideal rendering by which to judge any sort of emulation. Needless to say, I’ve been chatting a bit with Nick Montfort.

I found the article interesting not for its discussion of CRTs, but because Fudoh’s approach is a bit different than most I have encountered. He doesn’t care about CRTs out of concern for historically accurate hardware, and thus image quality. Rather, his desire is to achieve the best possible image. He is obsessed with the signal to the extent that he will modify a console that originally output composite, so that it offers RGB. The quality he is achieving is one that game designers and players would never have seen when designing and playing these games. This is the antithesis of the CRT emulation camp, whose concern is accurate reproduction of an image quality that bears fidelity to consumer grade CRTs of a given game’s period.

Fudoh’s work is impressive to be sure, but is he barking up the wrong tree? On the other hand, does CRT emulation preserve the wrong thing? Is there a hybrid approach that combines these two apparently opposing schools of thought? What do you think?

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