The Landscape of Retro Gaming

My initial topic was ‘Retro gaming vs Rom gaming’, but after writing a short draft I realized there was far more to the discussion. These days it has become so popular to play retro games that the options aren’t limited to rom’s, there are ports, remasters, virtual console has been a thing for a long time, collections of vintage games re-released on modern consoles. The scope for playing games from decades past is becoming so vast that it’s not even solely about nostalgia anymore, rather companies appreciating the consumer base’s love for their IP backlog and spinning ways to make money from it, whilst also giving a little to the experience to make it work for today’s ever expanding gaming audience.

In many, if not, every way, there are no downsides to this. Companies re-releasing their old games on modern hardware, allowing today’s generation’s the opportunity to play some of the best and/or most pivotal video games the world has ever played, when all they have is an Xbox One, or even an iPad, or PC, or any modern console, or anything really. It’s given rise to a new generation of retro gaming, where 8-bit/16-bit games are back in trend and the lines are starting to blur between what a game from the early 90’s late 80’s looks like and what a modern game made yesterday looks like (provided it’s made in the 8-bit/16-bit style).

It’s great! we’re seeing anyone and everyone enjoying any and every game and the emphasis is moving away from the best graphics to the best game play, at least, somewhat, because obviously people still want the highest definition graphical experience they can get with the best frame rate possible. But frame rate is beginning to matter far more than graphics, and I think the way the gaming landscape has evolved to fit different art styles inspired from decades of gaming history has alot to do with such an evolution in popular opinion.

So retro gaming is now popular, and companies know it, and there are solutions to fit every audience. However a large part of me feels a little empty from the modern retro gaming offerings. To the point that playing the rom of an old Sega game through an old Sega emulator running through Dos-box is the new nostalgia, yes, it’s nostalgia-ception. I guess it feels a little fake to me, a little too new, like because it’s been worked on it’s not the original game.

I don’t know about other people, but there is something amazing, a very joyous feeling about being able to put an original game in an original console, neither of which have been changed since they were released in the late 80’s and being able to play it the way it played three decades ago. Maybe it’s a novelty, or maybe it’s a preference of how to play games, whatever the case, I don’t care because I love it so much.

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The difficulty to get original games, the best ones cost as much as modern games, once I get it, it feels like I’m buying a new game for my console, much the same as buying a new game for my PS4 or Switch. The feeling that I spent hard earned money on something I really wanted, not just wanted for the past few months, but wanted literally for the past 10-20 years, and to be able to play it on the original console, feels like fulfilling a childhood memory. If it’s a game I’m not nostalgic for and simply want to try, maybe I bought it as a Garage sale or 2nd hand store, then there is a very warm and fuzzy feeling I get to just play the game in an original console as if it were the early 90’s again.

I kinda get a similar feeling from rom’s as I used to play roms via emulators on an old PC many years ago, back when the PS2 was new, NES and SNES, Master System and Mega Drive, so even this has a little nostalgia, however the interest waned as with rom’s the opportunity to obtain is too easy, the reward is too small, and playing on rom’s just feels like too much an effort, at least it did back in the day. Even now my RetroPie I made up recently to see if rom playing was something I might enjoy again, has just sat on my shelf gathering dust, because it’s simply not my thing, my investment is in original equipment, I enjoy the controllers, the consoles, the CRT display’s, inability to save state’s, it’s a different experience.

I say different because I don’t think it’s better or worse, it’s simply my preference. I certainly see the appeal of modern retro gaming opportunities, for example I love Mega Man on my switch because I’m terrible at it, however I used to watch my brother play it when I was young, but I wasn’t good at it so I didn’t bother, now I can enjoy the game and rewind when I need too. Which brings me to playing games on modern equipment. Simply, it is a different experience. It’s for those who can’t afford to buy original equipment, or certainly those who wouldn’t want to go to that effort or simply aren’t interested. When there’s a new collection released on modern consoles, take for example the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis classics collection. I don’t own it, but judging from reviews it’s an awesome collection of a number of great Mega Drive games made to work very well on modern hardware. You don’t need to set up a different console, or make sure you have a TV that supports RF/Composite inputs etc. etc. it’s a very simple and easy experience. One which I look for in my modern gaming, but in my retro gaming, not so much, I think the effort of setting up an old console, on a CRT TV, reaching behind to plug it in and tuning it in on the screen is something I’m also nostalgic for, as at my house we never really left consoles set up for long. However I completely appreciate the plug and play of retro games on modern equipment, it’s very appealing even as I write this, but I know as soon as I turn on my PS4 I’d want to play Far Cry or some racing game, rather than my retro games.

So it’s one of those personal preference things, as with most things. Retro gaming is hugely influenced on personal nostalgia, what games do you want to revisit, what experiences are you nostalgic for. But beyond nostalgia, what experience do you enjoy when video gaming, is it about the graphics, game play, FPS, popularity. I think retro gaming is slowly becoming recognized as ‘gaming’, very very slowly. I mean many people still watch old movies, why not old video games? If we take away the old aspect of games, it simply becomes a question of how do you enjoy playing games, on original equipment or are you okay if it’s all lumped together in a collection on a different device like Wii’s Virtual Console or a Retro Pie?

I’m a huge advocate for retro gaming to be seen as less of a niche and more of a regular gaming experience. I’d love to see more stores stock old games and equipment, more offerings by companies for their old IP and more ways to enjoy games from the past, today. They aren’t bad games most of the time, just old. The way we jump on new games and discard old games is simply not my thing to the point, I don’t really understand it beyond the fact many retailers promote it. I’d far prefer to see new games that come out as simply more games to play. In a landscape of an ever growing collection of gaming experiences that exist across an ever growing number of years.

 

Featured Image: All taken by the Author and turned into a collage.

Post Image: Taken by the Author

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  2 comments for “The Landscape of Retro Gaming

  1. July 30, 2018 at 5:33 am

    I remember one commenter asking me if I was too late reviewing a game (Call of Duty 4) – as though they have an expiration date or something. It’s a shame more people don’t get the appeal of playing and talking about older games. While I do think that being blinded by nostalgia is a bad thing, and one of the main weaknesses of independent gaming critics, there’s never anything wrong with discovering a lost classic. Retro gaming is a strange term when you consider cinephiles don’t have to put up with being called retro watchers.

    Like

    • July 30, 2018 at 8:12 am

      Yeah, I think the comparison to movies is an interesting one. A game will often be called a classic and re-released with packaging with classic or something at the top. But at some point, it’ll be taken off the shelf and never sold again entering the retro category. However movies are repackaged and sold forever and ever. I’d love to see games get the same treatment.

      Liked by 1 person

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