Video-gaming enthusiasts who miss the "good old days" when men were men and boys played Asteroids for a quarter a pop -- the days before console controllers required four hands with eight fingers apiece -- probably know about MAME, the emulation software that, essentially, tricks your PC into thinking it's an old arcade game machine and allows it to play the same files that once sat in massive cabinets in malls across America.

Trouble is, possessing the files the emulator plays if you don't actually own the game itself falls into a pretty sketchy area of copyright law -- there are services that allow you to license some of them legally, while some sites that have offered them for free have been shut down, depriving vintage gamers of the opportunity to play the classic French-made driving game Blomby Car.

Why bother with copyrights on 20-year-old games? Because you always defend copyrights, for one thing; if you don't, chances are it'll be brought up in court next time you really need to enforce one. Crying wolf, in this case, makes sense. Another reason? Because you just never know what'll be big tomorrow. Nostalgia for the latter fifth of the 20th century currently has a big impact on popular culture -- and video games are right there with everything else.

That's why on Monday we saw twin announcements from Atari (NASDAQ:ATAR) trumpeting both its Atari Anthology -- 85 old-school games for Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox, all for $20 -- and the Atari Flashback video game console, which packs 20 games into a stand-alone machine that plugs right into your TV and is slated to go for about $45.

The announcements are well-timed with the summer over, holiday shopping gearing up -- well, you know it will be any time know -- and, more generally, gaming managing to hold on to an awful lot of folks who'll remember these games fondly but won't want to deal with eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) sellers for their 2600 fix.

Atari didn't invent the "throwback" idea: Activision (NASDAQ:ATVI), for example, has repackaged its older games for a while now, while Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY) was reissuing old Mario adventures before many of its current customers were even born.

Atari, for its part, seems to be counting on its unique role in video gaming's history -- its corporate name, purchased and then adopted by also-ran French game company Infogrames, is pretty much synonymous with home gaming's early days -- to give it a boost in a brutally competitive industry.

Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any of the companies in this story.