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mr_lou

The real meaning of the word "homebrew"

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It has come to my attention that a large group of people are walking around with a wrong idea about what the word "homebrew" means. There seems to be a wide misconception that the word is exclusively related to hacking activities, and that it only applies to platforms that doesn't normally "allow" you to create your own software. This perception is completely wrong.

 

Let me start out small and simple:

 

When a company makes a game, it is called "a commercial game".

 

When a consumer makes a game (thus in his sparetime as a hobby), then it is called "a homebrew game".

 

The platform doesn't matter.

The technique doesn't matter.

The language doesn't matter.

 

The only thing that determines that it is "homebrew", is the fact that it is made by an individual (or a small group of hobbyists) rather than a company, and that it was done at home in his sparetime.

 

And that's it. Plain'n'simple. That's how you define a homebrew game. Nothing illegal about it whatsoever.

 

 

 

I'm an old geezer. I grew up with the Amstrad CPC 8-bit computer in the 80s. This computer too had a lot of commercial titles that you could buy. And it also had a lot of homebrew games. People were encouraged to make these homebrew games back then - so a lot of people did!

It was easy back in those days, because most of the 8-bit computers came with a built-in programming language called BASIC. As soon as you turned on the computer, it was ready to receive your BASIC instructions.

We didn't have the Internet back then, so a lot of these homebrew games were instead spread via magazines. Pages full of BASIC lines that you would then sit and type in yourself. Ah yes, those were the days.

 

The next generation of computers, such as the Amiga, didn't come with a built-in programming language. On these computers you had to load a programming language yourself if you wanted to code anything. But the result was still called a homebrew game.

 

And then we have all the game consoles that doesn't give you any immediate way of loading a programming language onto the machine itself. So you naturally can't develop anything on those consoles. But that simply means you develop it on another platform. It's called cross platform development, and it's done on a lot of platforms. That's all. It is still a homebrew game - and there's still nothing illegal about it.

 

 

But I understand where the confusion comes from here in the PSX communities.

 

One of the reasons people are confused is probably because you need to jailbreak your PlayStation in order to run (native) homebrew on it. Jailbreaking your console isn't illegal though. But you probably think it is because the majority of people who jailbreaks their console, does it not to run homebrew games, but rather to run pirated software - and THAT is indeed illegal yes.

 

Another cause of the confusion is probably emulators. If you code (or port) an emulator, then it also qualifies as homebrew. It is still you sitting at home coding some software - and it still isn't illegal. The illegal part in relation to developing an emulator, only comes if you include pirated copies of games and/or ROM files with it. THAT is what makes it illegal. But you're absolutely allowed to code and distribute the emulator itself, as long as your users have to supply the ROM files and games for themselves. (Supplying the ROM files and games themselves is also normally perfectly legal - as long as they own the original game(s) as well).

 

It's easy to see how all of this may have confused you and lead you to believe that homebrew is all about (illegal) hacking. But now you at least know better. 😉

 

To summarize: Homebrew is no more illegal than a car: You can use a car to break the law if you absolutely want to - but no one will ever blame any aspect of the car for that.

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