Peter Bordenave

Peter Bordenave has 5 articles published.

Retro-computing: resurrection and preservation with emulation

in Entertainment by
  • emulators_Elite_2_CMYK.jpg?fit=1000%2C1000
    The FCEUX emulator runs an NES port of Elite.

DISCLAIMER: This article is no way constitutes neither legal advice, nor agreement or disagree with emulation, devices, and subjects therein.

Retro-computing is the hobby of using older hardware and software for productivity and entertainment. Retro-computing often overlaps with retro-gaming, which specifically is the hobby of playing older games on native hardware and software.

In some retro-computing circles, purists debate that physical media is king and that retro-computing should be done on its native hardware. On the other end of the spectrum, users show devotion to emulators.

For those who want to get into retro-computing cheaply emulation is the answer. Emulation uses modern software to mimic or imitate older hardware, computer operating systems and applications in order to play system specific vintage software.

A good example of emulation in action is the use of Windows’s “Backwards Compatibility” or Windows XP mode. While not emulation in the sense that vintage video gamers use, this emulation is likely what most people are familiar with when they install older applications such as Microsoft Office 2000, on Windows 10.

When the older Windows program fails, Windows 10 will make a recommendation for the application to be run in a compatibility mode. There are a few modes Windows 10 will suggest for the application. This is what is happening at the core of emulation.  An older program is given a layer of translation for the modern software to understand it and the newer computer to then use the older software.

Emulators, however, have come under a legal gray area because they are sometimes used to create access to non-purchased video games. Companies like Nintendo have stated plainly their opinion on emulators: “The introduction of emulators created to play illegally copied Nintendo software represents the greatest threat to date to the intellectual property rights of video game developers. . . . Such emulators have the potential to significantly damage a worldwide entertainment software industry which generates over $15 billion annually, and tens of thousands of jobs.”

Nintendo was referring to piracy, and as the author of the Higan multi-system emulator Byyu stated in a PCGamer article, “Emulation does enable piracy, unfortunately. There’s no denying that. But it also enables fair use. It’s essentially the same argument as you’d make for a gun, a knife, or a car.” (The publisher of Higan was referring to the argument of who is responsible for violence, the perpetrator or the weapon.)

So, while piracy is illegal, emulation is not.

So if emulation is legal, what is illegal? This is the gray area of emulation. Emulation requires copyrighted material, usually in the form of “ROMs” or read only memories. These ROMs contain programs and can be anything from Pong by Atari, or something like Super Mario Bros. from Nintendo.

How to actually get ROMs and other needed files within copyright will not be discussed. What is going to be discussed is how to set up an emulator and some personal recommendations for you to consider.

One thing to keep in mind is, what are you wanting to emulate?  Is it a computer like the Commodore 64, the Apple II, or something more recent like the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube? These questions will be needed in order to understand what you need to do to run emulation on your modern day computer. Keep in mind that sometimes a low end, older computer simply can’t emulate.

For the purposes of example, however, let’s start with the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES. This console is a favorite among many players, and people enjoy the games in pop-culture and the system’s historical impact.

Often times you can do a search online and find many emulators for this system; however, caution should be taken when looking for an emulator. Due to popularity, some emulators are viruses. Wikipedia offers a list of well-known emulators that are either still active or have since been left in an unfinished state.

The FCEUX emulator can be found at Installing this emulator is not against the law and is legal. It is up to the reader to follow discretion on whether or not they go looking for the ROMs.

Clicking the download link will take you to the emulator’s host server, and an ad-blocker is recommended. From there the file will download automatically and be placed in the “downloads” folder with the name “”. From there you can unload the zip file into a folder in your documents. Opening the program is as easy as going into the folder and double-clicking the application.

In some cases you might have the ROMs sitting on your shelf if the emulator supports reading from a disc drive, such as PlayStation One or PSX, which uses CD and DVD technology to store its games. However you may need copyrighted files to run the emulators. When you’ve installed the emulator it’s your job to find the software you wish to play.

Generally, look for emulator sites that are recommended by many users and while searching it’s recommended you scan each file downloaded for safety. I would not recommend piracy in any fashion, as it carries large penalties or could damage your computer at the least. So, if your computer thinks something is wrong, it might be right.

Retro-computing: bits and bytes of the past back to the desk

in video games by
  • RetroGaming_snes-Classic-box_RGB-slider.jpg?fit=1000%2C1000
    The new SNES Classic sells for $79.99. Photo provided by Nintendo of America.
  • nes-classic-edition-box_RGB-slider.jpg?fit=1000%2C1000
    Last year’s NES Classic sold for $59.99. Photo provided by Nintendo of America.

   Nintendo re-released a miniature plug and play console with 21 built in games of their best hits from their library called the SNES Classic Edition, a remake of the older gaming console this year.

   When people think of computers, generally they think now a ’days of a big box and slim monitor. Some think of Steven Job’s sleek designs for Apple, and some think of a laptop. When we think of old computers, though, generally it’s the older TV-like monitors from the 1990s: a big CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor and a big beige box.

   The SNES (the Super Nintendo Entertainment System) Classic is a reproduction of Nintendo’s best-selling console very similar to the NES Classic released in 2016 that held 30 built-in games. Another similar product is the Atari Flashback which was a plug and play console of the Atari 2600, a gaming console from the late 1970s.

   All three of these are examples of what could be described as retro-gaming or retro-computing depending on what is being looked for.

   To define the terms, retro-gaming is specific generally to computers whose sole task is to play and display video games in some form of media.

   Retro-computing, however, is the use of a general purpose computer to play video games and use software from decades past.

   While this article will focus on retro-computing more than retro-gaming, they largely overlap. For the rest of the article, the term retro-computing will describe the activity of playing or use of older applications on genuine hardware or through software simulation (often called emulation) with modern hardware.

   Retro-computing, as defined by PC Magazine’s Encyclopedia, is the use of vintage hardware or software as a hobby or because the older computer and its hardware still function as needed. Many people may consider this a worthless hobby or somewhat of a silly idea. Why use an old computer; why keep a computer that is so old?

   To answer — retro-computing came about largely for nostalgia or “an excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition” as Merriam-Webster defines it. People who have used things that they grew up with will likely want to continue using them, much like how someone might not want to let go of a favorite toy or well-worn book.

   These old computers had a large user-base, some lasting well into the late 1980’s before being finally unsupported. A now vintage computer system, the very well-known Commodore 64, for example, sold in the millions.

    Many of these old computer users formed conventions, and now large conventions such as Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PREG) in Portland, Oregon, take place annually. Some individuals even gathered enough momentum and resources to spawn the creation of the National Video game Museum based in Frisco, Texas, all for the preservation, celebration and education of these older computers, consoles and related software.

   Some of these older machines are even brought to the convention to show to the public, giving people with memories of the past a smile at old delights and frustrations while giving a younger generation a look at what came from the past and how far we’ve come, much like human history itself is taught in schools.

   People coming from these conventions will hopefully have a better sense of the computers from the past and how influential they are.

   While many people may come out of these conventions with an appreciation of the past, others decide to choose it as a hobby, though many don’t know where to start or what to expect when starting in on the hobby.

   Retro-computing as a hobby doesn’t need to be prohibitively expensive through the process of emulation which translates older hardware architecture into software that the modern PC can understand. This allows old software to be read by the modern PC and displayed.

   Many applications, websites, blogs, forums and YouTube channels are dedicated to the subject. Some of these would be well worth a look into.

   One source that would give readers a wide breath of information is, an American museum with online exhibits and an excellent timeline of computing history from the 1930s to the present inventions. It also gives a history of personal computers as we know them today and much of what the retro-computing scene revolves around.

   One of the channels known on YouTube as “The 8-Bit Guy” has tackled the subject of how to get into retro-gaming in a video. In the video, the 8-Bit Guy answers, “What is the easiest retro-gaming system to get into?” Stating in the video, “I would have to say, MS-DOS computers. These are the ancestors of the modern computers and so share far more in common with computers today than any of these older systems.”

   Personally, I would recommend players get into emulating whatever they have fondness for. I got into emulating consoles I grew up with like the SNES, NES, and PlayStation 1. Emulation has been done plenty of times with many forums and postings available as resources. So go play.

Binge Games

in video games by
  • binge-games-slider.jpg?fit=500%2C500
    Graphic by: Peter Bordenave / The Mainstream

This week on campus I surveyed a small number of students about games they would be playing non-stop or binge playing this summer.

In this survey I focused on video games primarily but included answers given about other types of games.

Some of these games many not appeal to everyone, but others may offer interesting options, and some may bring a sense of nostaliga  or fond memories.

Players of all types and ages who were surveyed had video or board games they wanted to revisit, beat, or simply get into again.

D&D or Dungeon and Dragons was one of the most cited games, and during my survey some students expressed a desire for a D&D club or at the least wondered why there wasn’t one.

Dungeons and Dragons is a board game; however, online and computer game interpretations are available and more information on the game can be found at, the official website for the game. William Roland is one UCC student with an interest in D&D.

Another game Mackenzie Callahan wants to play more of this summer is League of Legends. Callahan runs the campus LoL club.

Sarah Jauorski likes a horror game titled “Seven Days to Die.” It’s a survival, horror game with an open sandbox.

Byronna Thomas likes two retro games. These are old arcade games. Thomas stated that she didn’t play games often, but the ones she remembers are from the Atari 2600 program export of Centipede and Millipede.

Here are other favorites UCC students plan on playing: Fallout 3, Warframe, Ark Survival Evolved, , Magic the Gathering, Cookie Jam, Flow Free, Call of Duty, Dark Souls III, Battlefield I, GTA 5, Rainbow Six Siege, Skyrim, and Halo 4.
Top genres for summer play

 with a sample game:


RPG or Role Playing


ElderScrolls series

Action Shooter Games

Call of Duty series

Puzzle or Logic Games

Portal series

Card Games

Cards Against Humanity

Board Games

Settelers of  Catan

MMO Games

World Of Warcraft

Mobile Games

Candy Crush series

Survival Games

Rust the video game

Horror Games

Amnesia series


A gory video game of history “Mortal Kombat”

in Review/video games by
Credit to:
Liu Kang fighting Reptile at the bottom of the Pit on SNES version.

If people want to make enemies of friends, one sure fire way to do it is thrashing them in a fighting game. Whether by slamming a friend’s head into pixelated asphalt or through the ring in a WWE sponsored video game title, players of fighting games have made, lost and finished friends on the couch and all over the world.

One of the most popular games that spawned from the ‘80s and continues to this day is the “Mortal Kombat” Series. This series is often praised as one of the best fighting games, as well as one of the more historic games due to the changes to the industry that it brought.

“Mortal Kombat” was produced in a time where violence was a growing aspect of the video game industry. Video games before “Mortal Kombat” were hits in the arcade, with gore and flashy martial moves. When “Mortal Kombat” was in production, though, “Street Fighter II” was the king of the hill with a gaggle of clones following its success.

John Tobias and Ed Boon, using previous games of their creation “Narc” and “Terminator 2”, produced “Mortal Kombat” in a renaissance of martial art movies of Asian inspiration. The pair wanted to make combatants as large as possible while small enough to move on a screen. Because they used digitized actors similar to arcade games like “Narc” and “Terminator 2”, the pair found they couldn’t get any live actors — like Van Damme — to sign into the game.

Creating an elaborate mythology of “Mortal Kombat,” the two man team took one lesson from Street Fighter 2: secrets. One of the things that helped drive “Mortal Kombat” as a game of history was this plethora of secrets. According to “The Ultimate History of Video Games” by Steven L. Kent, Boons explained one of these secrets: “Reptile was a last minute idea. Someone came up with the idea of doing a green [ninja] as opposed to the red (Scorpion) and blue (Sub-Zero), and having him be this hidden feature that is seen very rarely. We knew that the rumors were running kind of rampant about the game and as a last ditch effort we just threw Reptile in saying, ‘Lets make this come out very rarely, so only a few people will see it.’”

The hope was that when players got certain circumstances to happen, they’d be brought to the bottom of the fight pit where they would get the chance to fight Reptile.

Credit to: Wikimedia Commons                         Sub-Zero preforming one of the “Fatalities” a player could preform

One of the other initial secrets were “Fatalities” that a player could perform. Fans fueled rumors of more secrets than what actually got into the game. Some rumors, however, became reality as the game developed, one being Ermac the Ninja in “Mortal Kombat” 3. Ermac was based off of diagnostic menus used to patch coding errors that occasionally glitched into normal gameplay, and the developers later adopted the “error,” turning it into a character.

The game’s most significant impact to the industry was popping the tension that had been building from concerned groups of the public and within the industry about the impact that violence, misogyny and gory drama in games could have on children.

Before “Mortal Kombat,” there had been several games, bands and television or movie broadcasts that had spurred public outcry about the graphic content in media, starting in 1976 with “Death Race”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” in 1982, “Chiller” in 1986, and “Narc” itself in 1988. While crude by today’s standards, these games drove many concerned political, parental, religious and media groups of the day to give the video game industry an ultimatum.  Regulate the industry, or the government will do it for you.

With that ultimatum on the table, several major players in the media industry created the ESRB, Electronic Software Rating Bureau. With this bureau in operation, major retailers enforced its usage by restricting sales on games that weren’t rated by the ESRB. The only other option for developers if they refused rating was having a games market restricted to catalogue sales. Video games have since had a rating from E for Everyone to AO for Adults Only.

“Mortal Kombat” showed parents to be more conscious about what they allow their children to interact with, and it (along with Night Trap, Wolfenstein 3D, and others among the video games industry) changed the industry by partly inspiring the ESRB.

This is the second column in a series that will hopefully continue to discuss and review video games of historical and uncommon notoriety. The first of this series was on “Dwarf Fortress.” Suggestions are welcome and can be sent to the writer Peter Bordenave at, or through the Mainstream’s Facebook page.

An uncommon video game: Dwarf Fortress

in Columns/video games by
  • Dwarf-Fortress-Banner.jpg?fit=720%2C216
  • FortressScreen.jpg?fit=640%2C300
  • beach-fortress-example.jpg?fit=639%2C300
    Peter Bordenave / The Mainstream
  • snowy-fortress-example.jpg?fit=639%2C300
    Peter Bordenave / The Mainstream

The video game Dwarf Fortress in its full title is known as “Slaves to Armok: God of Blood, Chapter 2: Dwarf Fortress.” While having a title almost as big as its player base, the game lives up to the hematic name.

Dwarf Fortress is a life’s work produced by two brothers, Tarn and Zach Adams. It is collectively called “the most complex game ever made,” according to the New York Times, the Seattle Weekly and PC Gamer Magazine. Dwarf Fortress was chosen for this column’s premiere because of the impact it has made on popular games and for being one of the first games placed in the MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, according to Helen Walters of TEDBlog, the blog of TED Talks.

adventure start
Peter Bordenave / The Mainstream

Tarn Adams is the single programmer while the pair of Adams brothers work to design the game. Tarn Adams explained to me in an email what projects led up to Dwarf Fortress.

“My brother and I had always been working on a fantasy game, among our other ongoing projects.  We had one called Dragslay that we were working on in high school in the mid ‘90s which was our first with a procedurally generated world, the tracking of towns and named opponents.  That was also a text game, but we wanted to add graphics which is where the aborted Chapter 1 came from.”

Dragslay, then, helped lead to the development of the aborted chapter 1 of Dwarf Fortress.

Tarn Adams explained what happened to the first chapter of Dwarf Fortress. It didn’t get very far as a game, though the game can still be found at One of the more interesting glitches of the game, according to Tarn, “aside from the horrifying body tissue stuff, it had some terrible procedural animations so you could, for instance, designate that you wanted to stand on one hand and one foot, and you could walk around that way.”

snowy fortress example
Peter Bordenave / The Mainstream

Tarn and his older brother have been designing games together since they were around six years old.  “We talk through all of the additions and the overall arc of the (Dwarf Fortress) development as well,” he said.

Zach writes stories on the website ( that the brothers use for planning, “though most of his story-writing energy now goes into the individual rewards we send out to people, “ Tarn said. “We also work a lot together on side projects that sometimes find their way back into the main game.”

So, that leaves us with the question of what “Slaves to Armok: God of Blood, Chapter 2: Dwarf Fortress” really is. Dwarf Fortress is a game where the player takes control of seven small alcoholic humanoids into a world they generated to build, garrison and defend an outpost.

The game starts with the player creating a world to play in, then choosing from three options of game play. Dwarf Fortress or “Dwarf Mode” is the main mode of the game taking the form of a city-building simulation, similar to games such as SimCity. Adventurer mode is a sandbox role playing game with permanent death, and in Legends mode players can view the histories of the game’s entities. Only one mode can be played at a time in any given world.

There are some common criticisms of the game that makes Dwarf Fortress unappealing to certain players. The first obvious criticism is the game’s graphical fidelity and user interface.  The game runs off of a pseudo-ASCII text system to display everything in the game from trees to monstrous demons. Dwarf Fortress has the player running through menus of many lengths, sometimes requiring a great deal of patience or memory to understand the information.

Even hardened players of the game sometimes have issues running through the menus when things get hectic. Another often-touted point of the game, stemming from the ASCII style and maze of menus, is its overall learning-curve. The curve is labeled as a “learning cliff” from players and observers alike. This “learning cliff” comes from the game’s immense amount of detail and abstract nature.

Veteran players often joke about the graphics come from the Matrix movie partly due to its UI and graphics. While new players are left with no tutorial to help them blunder through their first fortress. Eventually from frustration or incompetence, the player fails and the game informs them, “Your settlement has crumbled to its end,” dumping them back into the starting screen.  This can start a cycle for some players or turn off those who simply find it too difficult to continue trying.

However, the things that make Dwarf Fortress bad make it just as good.

The lack of graphic capabilities allows most computers to run Dwarf Fortress with at least a 32-bit CPU and 2 GB of memory or RAM. It also makes up for its shortcomings in mechanics and story generation with its scope.

When players fall as adventurers, they can kill themselves from the weight they’re carrying. If water is in their fortress, it will build pressure, becoming an unstoppable force if the wells and water-lines aren’t correctly planned.

Dwarves are also taken into account. They have personalities all of their own and will act accordingly. For example, a depressive dwarf may cause fights or even be driven to suicide. An ecstatic dwarf may go into a frenzy of inspiration, crafting an artifact for the glory of the fortress.

The game simulates everything it possibility can with new mechanics continually being planned and put together by the two-man designers. The stories that come from the game’s depth of simulation have inspired artists, developers and fans alike. One of the more famous stories is from the very early days when Dwarf Fortress was a 2D game; this particular game was named Boatmurdered.

Gathering a following on forums and more, it has often been retold as an example of what players could experience in Dwarf Fortress with a little imagination. This leads us into the community for the game and the influence Dwarf Fortress has on modern video games.

One of the most popular games, Minecraft, is inspired by Dwarf Fortress. Borderlands and many other games, such as World of Warcraft and Runescape, have references to this game, as stated in the Dwarf Fortress Wiki,

Tarn Adams explained his impressions about the games that have been inspired by Dwarf Fortress, “We haven’t gotten a chance to play many of them, but they seem cool.  We’ve met some of the developers personally at various events and talked about the common problems that come up making games like this.”

Dwarf Fortress is only 14 Megabytes, that’s 86 percentage smaller than one gigabyte. Dwarf Fortress’s price is just as small as its size, free. This game is entirely free and the developers earn all their income from donations by fans and players using online services like Patreon and PayPal or more traditional methods.

For players looking to get into Dwarf Fortress, Tarn stated, “If you can’t immediately get into it, it would help to have some experience with other text-based roguelike games. You can try the lazy newb pack (it has tilesets and other useful stuff), the Dwarf Fortress wiki, and video tutorials on youtube; there’s even a book.”  If you want to play the game, you can download it at

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