Unauthorized Afterlives of the Super NES/ Super Famicom

Unauthorized Afterlives of the Super NES/ Super Famicom (Le‌ ‌piratage‌ ‌informatique‌ ‌ROM‌ ‌et‌ ‌l’après-vie‌ ‌de‌ ‌la‌ ‌Super‌ ‌NES) is my FRQSC-funded dissertation in the department of Communication Studies at Concordia University. I am planning to complete the dissertation in 2024, while providing sporadic progress updates on this website.

My dissertation will explore the afterlives of the Super NES/Super Famicom (SNES/SFC) console and its software library, primarily through the investigation of unauthorized technologies, practices, and industries that have emerged following its release. This research is a productive expansion and critique of platform studies, joining a growing number of academic projects that challenge platform studies’ tendency to focus on industry documentation and official development practices. My intent is to interrogate the platform studies archive by focusing on the practices and technologies of SNES/SFC users that are framed as unauthorized through various discourses of legality and authenticity, and thus relegated to secondary status in official histories of the console. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Reproductions: re-creations of videogame hardware (usually consoles and cartridges) that exist outside of developer-established production and distribution networks.
  • Emulators: applications that allow one computer system to behave like another computer system. bsnes, for example, allows users to run SNES/SFC games on a PC.
  • ROM Hacking: the process of modifying a ROM image (a digital version of a cartridge-based game) to alter elements such as graphics, levels, dialogue, and music.
  • Videogame Fan Archives: online knowledge-sharing communities that treat games as vital sources of information and history, whose contents must be sorted and archived.

I will first study these topics through a technological lens, wielding a variety of hardware and software analysis methods, and then discursively using digital ethnographic methods, primarily interviews and the textual analysis of online communities. Through this analysis, I will highlight the conditions of existence for these practices and technologies through the lenses of authorization and authenticity, as well as the informal economies that enable their distribution. Thus, I will not only be appending existing histories of the SNES/SFC to include previously overlooked elements, but I will also highlight the discursive processes that have framed them as unauthorized, inauthentic, or unworthy of study.