We live in an age where we have multi million pound budgets for video games, 4k resolutions, virtual reality and full voice acting. Surround sound and full motion video has been with us for a long time now, online multiplayer, achievements and trophies are the norm. Yet I and many others are increasingly turning to retro gaming. It’s undeniable that consoles and games from generations long gone, are increasing in popularity. In recent years we’ve seen prices of these things go up and up. Sometimes legitimately, other times sellers are just deluded. But the fact remains, more of us are looking back in time for our gaming fix. So, let’s talk, why retro gaming? Here’s part one.
Isn’t Retro Gaming all just Nostalgia?
Ok, let’s clear this up early on. No. It isn’t nostalgia. I actually hate that argument. Sure, some people will be buying up the Super NES Classic and PlayStation Classic as impulse buys, based on nostalgia. Maybe some people will pick up or keep hold of a real retro system for nostalgic reasons. But we’re talking more here about people, like myself, who genuinely track down systems and games, play them and plan out their purchases. Here’s why I don’t buy the nostalgia argument –
Definition – Nostalgia
a feeling of pleasure and also slight sadness when you think about things that happened in the past:
Some people feel nostalgia for their schooldays.
Hearing that song again filled him with nostalgia.
a wave (= sudden strong feeling) of nostalgia
Source – Cambridge Dictionary
So looking at that definition, if you’re sat at home reminiscing about the times you used to play GoldenEye 64 split screen death match with your best friend, yeah that’d be nostalgia. At the point where you are actually sat playing GoldenEye 64 and having a good time doing so, then It has ceased to be nostalgia and becomes a current activity, therefore does not fit that definition of “nostalgia”. OK, glad we cleared that up, moving on…
OK fine, so then why Retro Gaming?
I cannot cover everything on one go, so I’m not going to try. But here are just a few great things about Retro Gaming that have had me drawn in for years…
Modern consoles are pretty great, I grant you. But not without drawbacks. Simplicity of the old is something modern machines just cannot compete with. If I go boot up my PS4 right now, I’ll have to wait for it to sort its life out and get to the dashboard. Then that new game I just brought, either going to have to download it or wait for it to install and update. Maybe I’ll get to play after that, maybe I’ll have to login to things and juggle settings. On the other hand, if I go over to my CRT TV and hit the power button, fire up the Sega MegaDrive, that’s it. I’m playing within seconds every time. And while I don’t personally care to much for this argument, it is true that retro gaming control schemes are equally as low maintenance. A few buttons and a D-Pad have to do everything for the most part.
Now, of course I am not saying that there are no creative, unique games any more. Of course there are. Although I do feel like the bulk of that comes out of the Indie studios. Which you could argue has some crossover with retro gaming to some extent. You see, in times gone by, studios had less pressure from publishing overlords and investors to continually rake in ever increasing pools of cash. Or hit a particular deadline. They had less, if any, guidelines about what they could or could not make. These days’ studios typically take less risks. How often are you going to see a game about a supersonic blue hedgehog chasing down a fat bloke who rides about in a flying car? Not all of it worked, some games should have stayed securely locked down inside the creator’s head. But on the other hand at least they tried and we saw some amazing and enduring titles appear that nobody would have expected. Much creativity was also spawned from the very limitations of the old hardware. Developers had to think about how they could get things to work or how to get across an idea. They had to think about how to engage us given the constraints of a system and storage capacities.
We’re fast approaching an all-digital distribution era; we all know it’s coming. Maybe not the next generation, but it won’t be long and it makes my skin crawl. It’s been sneaking up on us for a while now. I used to buy my PC games in a real shop, then almost overnight I couldn’t really do that anymore. On the day of writing this, we’ve seen the close of the Wii Shop. With that closure, we have lost some games potentially forever, you cannot get them physically and unless we see them released elsewhere, they’re gone. Retro Gaming on the other hand, if you can find the game, it’s exactly the same game it was at launch. No patches, updates or fixes. Streets of Rage II is the same now as when I played it back in 1993. While things like Disc Rot are a factor, there are measure to take to preserve disc based games. Cartridges are pretty much bomb proof. Similarly, the consoles themselves are for the most part, like the Terminators of gaming. They just keep on going with minimal care.
Earlier on we eluded to the rising cost of retro gaming. Things that you couldn’t give away a few years ago now command a price. Then there are the crazy folk who believe their no box, sun bleached Super NES with one dog chewed controller is obviously worth £300. That’s fine, just avoid all of that. You can still get great games at bargain prices. You can pick up dozens of PlayStation 2 games for the price of one new game, for example. And that was an amazing platform. This is pretty much the case for all systems with a few exceptions. While you may have to look harder for bargains with some consoles than others, generally there’s lots of loot out there to be had. There’s some great sources out there to help you find the treasure, MetalJesusRocks for example has some great buying guides on his YouTube channel.
Begin your Retro Gaming collection!
We’ve touched on a few things that I feel make Retro Gaming great and feed into the popularity of the scene. But there’s a whole bunch of other things to talk about with the subject that’s going to have to wait. So in the meantime, go dust off those old consoles. Pick yourself up a PlayStation 1 or Nintendo 64 and we’ll talk more in Part 2, coming soon!