Why Retro Gaming Will Never Lose It's Appeal

A brief article highlighting why retro games still give enjoyment years later.
March 03, 2014

For a while there it felt like Retro gaming was simply fading away… just another casualty of our fast paced world. With every new system and title released, you could almost feel the weight of the masses forcing your old consoles into boxes and closets to make room for their shiny new counterparts. For a long time I followed the trend, staying up to date with the latest and greatest, but years later I found myself frantically digging out my old systems in search of something from the past. Nostalgia? Perhaps. I’m sure that has something to do with it, or does it?

Most gamers can tell you exactly what game it was that really got them on the hook. My first game was an old Apple IIe title called Tonk In the Land of the Buddy Bots. Some of you may be able to reminisce. You took Tonk around the world avoiding Gork (the main B.A. of the game) and picking up the pieces of the Buddy Bots. You then had to take all the pieces of the Buddy Bots and put them together as a puzzle to finish the game. You could climb ladders, ride vehicles including a raft and a gondola, and enter buildings and caves in search of more pieces. While the premise sounds very simple, how much different was it from the games we play today?

Aside from the leaps and bounds we have made in the graphical aspect of games, what really makes them stand out against the games of yester-year? Halo and Call of Duty can easily be compared against games such as Half-Life, Unreal Tournament, Doom, and of course Goldeneye. The objective stays the same, kill or be killed. Going further back games like tempest and asteroids have influenced a whole slew of games like Rez for the Dreamcast and Geometry Wars for XBLA. Is there really anything new and exciting in terms of gameplay that current games do better than those of the past?
I thought having a child’s input would make me see a little more clearly what it is that makes games so exciting and fun for people so I enlisted my stepson to play some old-school games with me (he’s officially hooked now btw). While he doesn’t play many recent consoles yet, he warmed right up to the instant action of a few arcade games. Nightwarriors, Street Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Pacman to name a few. Not once did I get a complaint except when I had to literally pry him off the machine for dinner. When trying to play newer games like Ghostbusters, Halo, or even Epic Mickey he seems to lose interest extremely fast.

Is it the long load times? Maybe it’s the 10 minute cinematics or the hour long tutorial that you have to drag yourself through before you can actually get into some action. It might even be that there is so many controls but still so little to do with all the extra buttons. Either way, he’s come to the conclusion that he’s into the older scene. While I can assure you that this isn’t the case with all kids growing up today, every time he has a birthday party he and all his goons are hogging the arcade all night. The Xbox 360 sits idle in the other room and listens with hateful ears to the sounds of excitement coming from the basement.

I guess what it all boils down to is how much fun you can have with a game. I thought Sonic the Hedgehog was a name destined to be forgotten but now I hear “Isn’t Sonic the coolest!?!” every single night. I remember those same words coming out of my own mouth 20 years ago. I watch Pacman continue his quest on a nightly basis snapping up pellets and high-tailing it away from Blinky and his crew. Frogger makes his way across the busy highway and chickens narrowly avoid getting flattened by semis in Freeway the same way they have for the last 30 or so years. The kids simply eat it up.

In no way am I trying to put past games on a pedestal, I just find it interesting that the same games that rocked the house in the 80′s and 90's still stir up a flurry of thrills all these years later. The games that sucked back then still suck now. It all goes to show that a great game, regardless of age, is still a great game. With collectors out there buying up the rare titles for exorbitant prices, emulation is playing a key role in keeping these games alive and available for a new generation. Places like the Barcade in Philadelphia are still cashing in on gems of the past.

It would seem as though retro games will continue to shine possibly even brighter than the newest of games for years to come. The graphics have become exponentially better and the games have become longer, but all in all the games that worked before are the games that work now. All the great games of the past will continue to live on and I’ve been actively doing my part to keep them alive and well into the next generation. Long live retro.
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