Guest post by Ben @Capture Way
You probably don’t need me to tell you that gaming is going in some intriguing new directions, from Virtual Reality to unprecedented artificial intelligence to graphics almost indistinguishable from reality. Somehow, in a landscape where the technology that drives our gaming is thousands of times better than 20 or 30 years ago, it is fascinating that people are still playing retro games. So is this all a flash in the pan? Or, like wearing flared jeans, will this trend quickly fall back into obscurity?
When I was a teenager, YoYos made a comeback. Little plastic discs which spin on the end of a string, and if you really master the art, come back to you. They were back on the playground for all of about two weeks, and everyone was bored again. Who knows where the comeback came from, but it was quickly gone again, and time and time again I have been told that the same thing will happen with retro gaming, but it won’t.
Crawling around in the attic and finding your old Nintendo 64, dusting it off and loading up your favourite games is a great experience, mainly for one reason; nostalgia. Just like we do with movies, albums and other forms of media, we tie games to memories of times in our lives. For me, N64 and other 90s consoles remind me of weekends with friends arguing over Super Mario Kart, drooling over who got the next turn on Goldeneye (N64) or even trying our best to work out what on earth was going on in Pokemon stadium. However, nostalgia alone isn’t enough, so why do people stick to it? At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, it is because the games are amazing!
The YoYo fad came and went because after you’ve had the initial shiny object syndrome and fulfilled your human curiosity, you realise that hanging a ball off a bit of string isn’t that fulfilling, but with a retro game, you quickly remember what drew you in in the first place. There are reasons we could play Zelda, Pokemon or Super Mario for days at a time. Other technology from the time wasn’t necessarily fit for purpose, a Nokia 3310 phone quickly became redundant, and it is unlikely that we will ever want to use them again as they were replaced by something much better. Better is the operative word here, and in gaming, as with film and music, more tech doesn’t necessarily mean better.
The Pokemon Paradox
Pokémon as a franchise has had its ups and downs, and of course has been in the news a lot recently, but it is widely accepted that the best Pokémon games are the first generation. As time went on, and the technology available to the developers became more advanced, the things we love about the original games didn’t grow alongside it. A fulfilling and engaging quest, the chance to personalise and make your own decisions meaning unique gameplay, loveable characters and the satisfaction of finding a rare Pokémon or defeating a gym leader. For the same reasons a low budget movie with great storyline, music and performances beats a CGI blockbuster with no story and corny acting. Technological growth is great, but it doesn’t always correlate with quality.
Not all retro games are suddenly made great by virtue of being old. I’m not a big fan of playing E.T. on Atari 2600 just because of the fact it fits the ‘retro’ bill, but the point here is that 80 hours of HD gameplay aren’t necessarily essential for an enjoyable experience.
It’s Easier This Time Round
It is even worth considering that the retro gaming experience might have even been enhanced this time round. When I was a kid and got stuck on one of my gameboy games, I either had to work it out, or inevitably become frustrated and quit, but now even for retro games, the experience can be shared and there are tutorials and other online communities where this kind of thing can be discussed. Gaming has become social in different ways, and while it has always been great to sit with your friends and play, sharing it online, watching other peoples’ experiences on the same games and being able to chat about it with people all over the globe is relatively new. Retro games can even be captured via capture cards, streamed and screenshotted depending on your setup.
Some YouTubers even manage to build huge channels based on video games both new and old, and sometimes viewers get the same experience by watching walkthroughs and reviews, sometimes just watching the gameplay and watching (or reading) reviews can be enough to give you your retro gaming fix.
If it were all about photo-realism and depth then the platformer would be dead in the water, modern classics like Super Meat Boy (available on PS4, Wii U, MAC, PC, Linux, PS Vita, Xbox 360 and Shield) would never have come to existence, and Mario and Sonic wouldn’t still be going strong on a brand new 2017 console. Retro has almost become a genre unto itself, and games produced now can still have the old school feel to them.
No matter how many games you play in your life, it is unlikely that if someone handed you Mario Kart or threw you into Sonic’s Green Hills Zone, you wouldn’t get the same buzz out of playing it. Whether you were involved in it first time around or not, whether playing old games brings back memories or not, a good game is a good game. The experience you have on a game is not dictated by when it was released, and for the same reason you can still get a thrill out of watching a Kubrick film, certain games will never seem to age.
About the Author
Ben is a blogger and video game enthusiast with a penchant for games from the 90’s. He writes about capturing, editing and streaming games footage over at his site Capture Way where you can find out everything from recording commentary for your games to reviews of the latest capture cards and gaming hardware.
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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