Warning! Possible controversial topic!
What is a Console Emulator? Well, according to Wikipedia: "A video game console emulator is a program that allows a computer or modern console (cross-console emulation) to emulate a different video game console's behavior."
I'll have to admit that, since 2002, I've been experimenting with a wide variety of emulators and, in my opinion, I don't see console emulation as a bad thing. Now, before this post starts some kind of uproar(let's hope not :S ), I'd like to point out few things bout it.
1) Yes, it's Illegal to download a game ROM for an emulator if you don't have an official copy of the game, but when you think about it, downloading an illegal copy of a game is no different than downloading illegal videos and/or music from other sites.
2) If it wasn't for console emulation, we wouldn't have Xbox Live Arcade, The Playstation Network, nor the Wii's Virtual Console. The Video Game industry,in a way, owes it to console emulation for bringing back classic games and introducing them to a new audience but in a more traditional manner through emulated ports like the classic NES series on GBA for example.
3) Fan translations in video gaming play a pivotal role in console emulation. The perfect example of this is Final Fantasy V, a game that was never released outside japan during the SNES era due to localization issues among other things. The continual canceling of the localization pissed off many fans and a small team of programmers and translators decided to take matters into their own hands and make their own fan translations through emulation. Interestingly enough, Koichiro Sakamoto, a game producer from Square Enix, found out about fan translations and he actually considers this "encouraging" because this movement was mostly out of fan demand.
4. Sometimes poorly advertised games can get praise and even achieve a cult following over a certain period of time through emulation. Example:"Conker's Bad Fur Day"
Now, of course, Emulation does have it's drawbacks:
1) Some ROMs and emulators are known to be glitchy and can crash on rare occasions, that is, if they're not programmed properly.
2) Emulators can get laggy at times, especially if you're using an N64 emulator or higher like a Dreamcast emulator. This also depends on the type of PC you're using to play them
3)There will be occasions where you feel like you missed out on a specific game. I can relate to this at times with games like "Chrono Trigger", "Conker's Bad Fur Day" and "Resident Evil 2" (N64 port).
These games were so awesome that I sometimes wish I bought the original copies instead.
4) The controls are difficult to get used to at first, especially if you're playing a game with a keyboard instead of a USB controller. However, in console emulation, you can adjust the controls to your liking if necessary.
Overall, even though console emulation is apparently frowned upon by most of the gaming community, I don't have a problem with it. Don't get me wrong, I do support the gaming industry and I currently have an N64 and a GameCube at home (I want to get a Wii too, but money's kinda tight for me these days). I used to have an NES, a SNES, a SEGA Genesis and an old Game boy too, with a good collection of games I might add. But unfortunately, I had to give them away a long time ago. It's kind of a personal thing that I don't like to talk about very often, but it happened... :(
Anyway, I personally think of emulation as more publicity for other people's work. Also, I should point out that nowadays, I'm more of a Retro gamer and I like to check out and maybe even review games I never had a chance to play before. I've also developed my own gamer motto over the years: "Play it however you can".
Now apart from playing games, I also use emulation for flashes (obviously) and whenever there's something in a game that I want to use for an animation, I borrow a set of sprites or backgrounds from the game and later give proper credit afterwards. It's thanks to emulation that I'm able to entertain my audience.
In conclusion, whether you want to try console emulation or not, even though it's "illegal" depending on where you live, that's your call. However, I wouldn't reject the idea of buying an original copy of a game either, so buy the original game if you can and support the video game industry.
As for me, well, If I had the time and the money, I would probably have a huge collection of games like the Angry Video Game Nerd's video game collection, but one can only dream though...
Thanks for reading, and please don't make a big deal about it. This is my opinion after all.