Flash cards (or hack cards, if you will) for the portable Prometheus that is Ninty’s Gameboy have been around for a number of years.
For the uninitiated they are essentially a standard-looking console specific cartridge with all the gaming guts ripped out and a place big enough somewhere within for the insertion of a re-writeable memory card. Sold primarily under the veil of Home-brew Homunculus wherein one can program and play one’s own confection of creation, their main appeal lies in one of illegal ownership and consumption of the mighty N’s entire Gameboy franchise back catalogue.
Many argue they are an invaluable tool for the home coder to learn the way of the Program Code, make home-brew games and emulators and alarm clocks and the like; those of us without our heads up our bums know them as a one-stop shop for bunging as many illegally downloaded roms as can fit on the cards silicon, a criminally neat way of bypassing that complicated and fussy purchasing of games as Nature intended.
And whether you agree with the one side or the other, the law unfortunately agrees with the power of Ninty’s wallet and phalanx of lawyers (and in all fairness they were making a loss on each DS sold, so it was really playing merry hell with them trying to shift some software and thus make some kind of profit out of the whole thing), making the sale of such things perfectly illegal in most of the known world and even a few places no-one knew existed until it became illegal to buy a flash-card from there.
Some cried afoul of the law makers when the hammer fell ‘neath the Judges swing; yes, they admitted, you can emulate all the programs we intended to program for the handheld with an emulator on the PC we’re currently torturing our keyboard and English grammar with this tirade of righteous indignation upon, but ‘…that isn’t the point and you’re wrong!’
Arguing the use of such a device as being a good thing is akin to arguing the Nazi’s were looking towards the future of the planets sustainability for mankind with their birth control plans for the Menorah makers; yes, a broad view may let you appreciate the finer details of the Grand Plan, but when up, close and ugly it shows potential for the horrific scarring of a tragedy too vast to ever truly be considered legit.
Gameboy flash cardBack in the Brick Of Grey days they more commonly took the form of a ‘X Number Of Games-In-1’ multi-cart that often came embossed with a sticker showing a slew of top-selling hit games that, like as much, were nowhere to be found on the cartridge itself but were damn tempting to the simple-minded and naïve of parent eager to shut the squalling mewl of their progeny with a ready-to-rock library of number one selling games being sold for less than a standard release game.
The Advance similarly had such munificent offerings bestowed upon it, and with the internet becoming a more common factor in most people’s homes and hearts, around the consoles launch, flash-cards became even more prevalent in the minds and cartridge slots of gamers the world over.
The ripping and downloading of roms onto the cart became a brand new avenue for even the most humpty of numpties to grab a gratis grab-bag of big sellers and whack them onto a suspicious looking GBA game shaped lump of molded plastic and skip off sunset-wards with Peach and Pikachu, Kirby and Klonoa nestling beside the bit on the doll where the lawyer had asked me to identify as the bit where the ice-cream man touched me.
Mostly such cards were procured from a shady website somewhere Eastern in address and though certainly gaining in recognition and popularity – thanks in part to a thriving home-brew scene – they were still a hen’s teeth quest to find one for yourself down the local Woolies.
But when the DS launched its birthing on the world of gamers, an amazing lush and verdant landscape was hard-wired into the matrix good n’ proper; pub quizzes the world over were decimated before the might of a quick search online via mobile phone whilst a willing team-mate distracted the quiz master by kicking over the bar, and parents let-go of the age-old tradition of insisting the teacher‘s an idiot for saying that nowhere in the annuals recording the Crimean War did it refer to any of the protagonists as slanty eyed fiends despite your convictions of certainty when helping Tiny Tim with his homework, the term ‘Google it’ being grunted instead.
Google being a verb in its own right by now, a single link in a random thread posted anywhere in the wild world of the web, is an open floodgate for the pudding grabbers out there to find, follow, and frag the living hell out of their ‘Right click, Save-As’ feature of their mouse.
And with mobile phones bringing a whole new platform for the gamer to be distracted upon as the traffic lights turn green, there also comes an entry free affordable to even the most tight of arses out there; free-to-play offerings are getting better at offering an entire game for next-to-bugger-all and if the occasional pop-up advert for Thai Brides becomes too annoying then it’s off to the Upgrade option and micro-transactions (themselves a hot potato currently threatening this new gaming generation as its roots begin penetrating into the already-paid-a-fortune-for flora and fauna of trad-gamers games).
The number of people defining themselves as gamers is increasing and for the most part this is a good thing for ensuring the markets survival. A gamer of the more traditional sort (ie: one who sees gaming and such as an investment of their cash and sets a place in their man-cave to wallow in their own crapulence), however, sees the rising tide of touch-screen toss and micro-transactions as a death knell for creativity within the industry – why risk losing a fortune developing a new IP when a Mafia/FarmVille rip-off will see you retiring in the Caymans with a Filipino house-boy called Juan before the first row of virtual crops get eaten by the cows and your avatar expands their territory with a nocturnal drive-by of the Minute Maid?
And even though Nintendo have got better at updating their system to include the latest back-door slamming code to prevent such cards and carts working the work-arounds, you only need to wait about a day before the internet gives you the download link that’ll allow you to continue ignoring the kiddies as they equally ignore you from their kowtowed position within the bean-bag chair.
Add in the factor of how close in price a handheld release is when held in comparison to the home console version and suddenly the difference in graphics, the fact it’s not on a ‘real console’, the amount of game play being offered for the price of admittance and any other half-assed justifications those who dabble in the dark-arts of downloaded roms rattle off in a facile attempt to bring reason to their crime means we’re looking at a situation where those who can, will, and those who can’t will simply keep hammering away at the keyboard until Google submits and shows them the way to a world where flash-cards abound, the term ‘home-brew’ is writ with a knowing wink emoticon, and Trojan viruses lay in wait for the unwitting clicker interested in also hoping to source themselves a rather male-looking Eastern new bride.