Running emulators has always held a certain fascination for me, as I believe it has for the technology enthusiast community on the whole (ie, nerds). I can recall in the past a competition between friends to see who could achieve the best multiple emulation system – for example, a PC running a Mac emulator, running an Amiga emulator, running a Mac Plus emulator, running an Apple II emulator, running a CPM machine, running MS-DOS. Besides seeing the interesting effect of how far you could actually drag down an operating system, this type of emulation didn’t have a lot of actual value.

Besides this nerdy proof-of-concept experiment, the real value of emulation lies in two distinct areas in 2018: acceptable Macintosh emulation for PCs, though Hackintosh projects, and game emulation, through the MAME project and other emulation software in advanced stages of development, for PCs, Macintosh, and UNIX / Android systems.

In this series of articles, I’ll go through the game emulation scene first. On the Mac platform, game emulation developed seriously through the MacMame project, which was designed to emulate everything from arcade game systems, digital pinball, systems, consoles, and more. MacMame was an offshoot of the MAME project itself, which was developed as UNIX and PC versions first.

Unfortunately for Mac users, the interface for MacMame never grew up past the PC / UNIX versions, making installing the software, adding games to the system, making sure the ROM files for game emulators and games themselves are in the right place a major chore. The game engines themselves work well, but getting past the grim interface makes using MacMame a bitter experience overall, with a high frustration quotient.

MacMame – Not so much fun…

Into the void came OpenEmu, a collaboration between developers to make a state-of-the-art Mac game emulation system that is the antithesis of MacMame’s kludgy hoop-de-do interface.

OpenEmu – system configuration and game library screens and running game emulation software for the Nintendo platform

Inside OpenEmu, game system controls are presented in software representation of the consoles itself. The interface comes with operating system ROMs for most game systems already installed, and you can also add more through drag-and-drop, which is how you add game files as well, which are displayed in a nice cover image gallery inside each game section.

Support for game controllers is also a nice touch, as OpenEmu works with Bluetooth controllers directly through the MacOS. Getting off the keyboard is a key benefit for really getting the most out of your game emulation experience.

I really dig how OpenEmu works for Mac game emulation. In next week’s column, I’ll take you through the interface and discuss the best possible games to play with this unique, pleasant game emulation software.