I learned this evening that Windows XP is not as "compatible" when it comes to running certain old games, as I would have hoped. I decided to reacquaint myself with one or two fairly old games which I haven't touched in years. As luck would have it, these games aren't completely well-behaved, even with compatibility settings enabled in the OS.
This had me doing a bit of research into what the masses do. It seems the masses are a bit stuffed. For DOS games, free software such as DosBox seems to be doing the trick. The games I want to play aren't that old, though, they're Windows 95 and Windows 98 games from the late 90s. Before Win2k and XP, but firmly in the GUI/Windows era. I had wondered whether VMWare would work, but sound emulation is apparently shoddy, and VMWare obviously can't do 3D hardware acceleration, so it's not much help. Dual-booting is a possibility, but hardly an optimal solution, and it's probably not sustainable as the years go by and hardware gets more exotic.
Searching the Net, it's obvious that there are a fair number of people wanting to play these older games, who're stumbling as they upgrade to XP and Win2k. One crowd of people may have the answer: the WINE/Linux folks. Projects like Transgaming have a lot of promise. I'd love to get my current machine running a current, healthy Linux distro and see just what can be accomplished.
In the meantime though, I'm more than a little disappointed. I bought some of these games years ago, hoping that I'd one day get to sit down and really play them. Now, it seems that might never happen. Bummer.