Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

The Value (and Necessity) of Retro Gaming

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The following article was written by Derek on the retro gamer and why more should join the cause.  For all intents and purposes it seems to demonstrate the mantra of this site – perhaps even moonlighting as a retro gamer manifesto of sorts.  Either way it’s a well written and concise explanation of why the retro gamer cannot and should not disappear, even if it isn’t mainstream.  Enjoy the read. – Fred – GH101 Executive Editor

Atari, NES, Amiga, and Master System. The grandfathers of modern consoles and the canvasses for which many classics were displayed upon. Whether you’re part of the young generation or you got a late start on gaming there is no better time than now to start playing retro games. Yes I realize the graphics, sound, and some of the game play isn’t up to par with today’s game releases but this by no means makes these titles inferior. So why go retro? It’s quite simple really: affordability, fun, and nostalgia. Gaming is one of few art mediums where the majority of people don’t know or appreciate the roots and genesis of it all. It’s time for that to change!

Galaga by Midway

Let’s face the facts: keeping up with and playing the latest and greatest titles these days is by no means cheap. We gamers spend hundreds of dollars a year to buy games and accessories and PC gamers spend even more to upgrade hardware. Having a fun gaming experience doesn’t need to break the bank though, in-fact, many retro consoles can be purchased for under $100 and most games for these consoles can be found for a couple of bucks if you know where to look. Take the NES for example, On eBay or at a local used game store you can pick up one of these gems including controllers and cables for around $50-$80 and most games for the system won’t set you back more than $2 or $3. Other consoles like the Sega Master System or Atari 2600 are similar in cost and the games are just as cheap. Imagine being able to experience classic titles like Street Fighter II, Alex Kidd, Super Mario, Asteroids, and Pac-Man on their original system’s for cheap. I for one would rather take $100 and buy 20 retro games rather than buying one or two new games.

As the saying goes, quality over quantity. This is evident in video games today with fewer and fewer good titles being released and console makers adding in achievement and trophy incentives to beat games or play them on a harder difficulty. However, back in the early days of gaming no such incentives existed and publishers and developers had to make sure their game was compelling, challenging and fun all the way thru. I never got 25 achievement points for beating Sonic or a gold trophy for playing Mega Man for 10 hours. Back then we played games over and over because they were fun and addictive not because we got some sort of fake digital reward. Because of this most retro games are pure addictive fun. The quality of retro games focused strictly on good game play, innovative platforming, and simple but effective graphics.

Vectorman by Sega

Every game play feature and platforming piece has its roots in the early days of NES or Atari games. While modern day innovations like the Gears of War crouching/cover system really have no feasible roots in retro they have been made possible by early innovations like more complex movement and controls in adventure games such as Shinobi. Games like Mario and Sonic laid the foundation for platforming with breaking boxes, collecting coins, and stomping out enemies- all common features in platformers today. Nowadays we talk frame rate and polygons but retro is all about hand painted or hand drawn backdrops, 8 bit design, and of course sprites. For many, Sprites are iconic and represent retro games for their simple style and that is why despite having modern graphics many games like Scott Pilgrim use sprites to convey an unique look. Recent XBLA title Bastion took retro hand drawn backgrounds to a whole new level with brilliant illustration throughout the game.

So even though it may be retro it doesn’t mean its not hip or cool. You know something is good when its still being copied and payed homage too decades later. Playing these older games and reliving our childhood is a nirvana every gamer should experience no matter your age or skill level. It is much easier to critique games and demand more when you have a better sense of how far gaming So head on out and buy up some gaming history. Enjoy it and learn to appreciate a simpler time when blowing on cartridges was a cleaning method and memorizing combos and codes was more important than homework. If you call yourself a true gamer you have to know your roots.

Derek is a freelance writer on several sites in addition to being one of the hosts on the Playground Podcast.  He is an occasional guest on our very own podcast and an overall passionate gamer.  He can be found on Twitter (@avsrok).

Written by Fred Rojas

October 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Features

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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  1. You said it right, retro gaming will and must live for as long as the gaming industry itself will last. I recently became more interested into classic games both arcade type and home console, I even plan to start an arcade cabinet to bring back the real feeling.


    February 19, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    • Always great to find more people getting into the scene. Watch for our 2/20 podcast going live tomorrow about arcades and check out our video page. In there I have videos of my transformation of a Pit Fighter cabinet to a MAME cabinet (before/after) to see the potential of arcade collecting/building.


      February 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm

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