When is emulation enough?

In working with digital library concerns, one of the biggest current issues is digital preservation. The strategies for digital preservation tend to be standardization and validation for the initial form and then either migration or emulation to keep that initial work usable. I'm not sure how the Library of Congress' digital game preservation is designed, but does anyone know if it's designed the same way with a focus on migration or emulation? If so, are the game systems themselves also being saved for researchers? If only some are or simply accepting that current preservation isn't comprehensive, when is emulation enough for most game studies researchers?

As game studies continues to grow, some of the scholarship seems to focus more on the game's presentation as visual artifact--like some of film studies which is interested in film as film and outside of the viewing context/use (theater or DVD)--some is focused on code studies (so the proper emulation would be needed, but not necessarily the media object), and some is focused on the game-as-object in a media archaeology type of study. Access to more original materials would likely be beneficial for all forms of game studies, but when is it essential? Or, given the constraints of preservation, when is emulation enough?

IGDA's Game Preservation SIG is developing resources and game scholars will likely play a large role in those resources. I'm hoping that the answers for game studies will be useful in working with digitization for library and museum artifacts which need to be digitized for access and preservation, but the methods by which to digitize, represent, and present them will necessarily vary based on cost and work constraints. I'm especially interested in the concept of "evocative objects" and the importance of representing materiality of particular objects for users through digital versions of the object and their object-ness.

Interfaces and stuff

I think the objects associated with console and arcade gaming in particular would be difficult to replicate in an emulation-only preservation system. Doesn't cabinet artwork play a fairly important role in arcade gaming aesthetics and culture? And doesn't the specific material interface of a console game (hello NES controller brick) add a whole other dimension to gameplay? Playing Mario on a PC is so not the same thing.

This also makes me think of Zach's work with fonts and how font design was impacted by display technology. Putting old games on new screens could alter visual aesthetics in ways we may not initially be aware of (yay Zach!) - despite the fact that the "visual artifact" portion is the part emulation is trying to preserve.

And speaking of aesthetics - is it safe to assume that, for a preservation project, these emulations would not be plagued by the bugs for which their less elite cousins are famous?

But I guess if we have no other choice...?