There have been a lot of video games over the years and, by and large, most of them are preserved somewhere on the internet. Whether they’re entirely accurate versions or not is another discussion, but some form is often available. This is not the case with Akka Arrh, an Atari arcade prototype that was its own spin on Missile Command when it was developed in 1982. Despite a release in some test markets, the game was deemed too complicated for players, so the title was shelved and never released in the wild. This means that Akka Arrh is an exceedingly rare game and the few people that did own machines weren’t willing to release it online and make the exceedingly rare game decidedly less rare.
But now Akka Arrh is out on the internet and playable in emulators in what might be a vigilante-lead heist.
The story comes from Ars Technica, which reports a fuller version of the events. Essentially, Akka Arrh ended up online to be playable in MAME, the Multi-Arcade Machine Emulator, not too long ago from a mysterious source. As very few people owned the machines, and had not been willing to release it, there’s no clear source for this release. Before too long, a user on the preservation forum where the ROM was released revealed a stunning accusation: Akka Arrh was actually taken by a repairman who went into work on other items for one of the collector’s that also owned Akka Arrh and simply copied the ROMs without permission.
This accusation, which is coming from a fairly credible source, has sparked a firestorm within the preservation community. While people who hold onto games without dumping the ROMs aren’t necessarily celebrated or anything, they’re not looked at like Ocean’s 11-style casino owners that have done something to earn their property being stolen. On the other hand, some also argue that copying a ROM from someone who has been unwilling to release a game to preservation circles isn’t theft at all, regardless of whether it diminishes the value of what they own.
There is also this argument, as Video Game History Foundation’s founder Frank Cifaldi put it in a tweet:
Might there come a point where drastic actions are necessary? Where it’s worth the ripple effect to save something? I don’t know. Probably. But it’s not for some random-ass Atari arcade game that didn’t test well.
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