Why Retro Games Still Matter
Recently I came across an article which called into question the point of playing older games when there are plenty of better newer games released today. I’m not going to link this article since it seems to be gaining a lot of negativity on the Internet, which is a shame as everybody is entitled to there opinion. In this article I’m going to simply give my personal take on the subject and why I still play retro games to this day.
I’ve mentioned in previous podcasts and articles that I started playing retro games even when I had modern systems. When I used to play the Mega Drive when I was younger the two games that got a lot of play time from me were the Midway Arcade Collection (which included Defender 1 & 2, Joust, Sinistar, and Robotron 2084) and another collection of older games that included Pong, Centipede, and Missile Command. I’ve always had this fascination with the past. Outside of gaming I love to go to museums and watch historical documentaries. For me personally, its always just been a general interest to learn about the games I play and see how they have evolved over time.
With the boom of more indie developers we are starting to see a lot of games take inspiration from the past and bring back titles that we will never see again from AAA developers. A recent game I thoroughly enjoyed was Woah Dave!, a love letter to the single screen arcade games of old like Joust that kept its gameplay formula incredibly simple but provided hours of fun for me on the PS Vita on the go. Another great title was Rock Boshers (PC, PS4 and PS vita) a criminally under appreciated love letter to fans of the ZX Spectrum right down to including a optional long start up screen. There are numerous examples of indie developers taking ideas from the past and presenting them to the current generation of gamers. This not only educates gamers about the past I’ve also seen younger gamers actually look back to older games and experience them. Nintendo, Playstation, and especially PC do a great job of making older games available digitally allowing gamers to enjoy the old on the modern systems. The infamous website Good Old Games has built much of its financial success of off peoples love and interest to download and play old games DRM free, a website I recommend to all gamers.
It may just me turning into a old goat but I personally find a lot of modern games remove content. A great example of this is Perfect Dark on N64, which is possibly the peak of FPS content, it featured a full single player campaign which could also be played co-op. It also featured a massive multiplayer which you could play locally with four friends and also throw in a generous amount of AI controlled bots to mix things up. Hell, you can even play the multiplayer alone with bots if you wanted. You also had challenges which could be played alone or with up to four friends. The game also featured an office area for you to just walk around at your own leisure or do some training. The spiritual successor to this game was Timesplitters on PS2 which featured a multiplayer and a piss poor campaign. Another quick example is compare any of the Deus Ex sequels to the original and you will once again see a dramatic difference in content. I’m not saying the new games are bad but it is a general pattern that we see when games are updated on next gen systems.
Nostalgia is also very powerful in the gaming industry. People still buy every iteration of Mario or Zelda because of their love for the original. We even see this in modern titles you may not expect. The recent Rise of the Tomb Raider, which is critically praised over most games in the series, was likely purchased by gamers because of there loose nostalgia to the original pointy polygon series. Not only that the developers took inspiration from the game by looking at past titles in the series. Yes, the formula has changed and plays a lot different from how it is but there’s no denying it takes themes from the original. We are also currently in a gaming period where we are literally seeing a surge of remake games like the upcoming Final Fantasy 7 remake as well as sequels to very old games like Shenmue 3. The later ended up doing very well on Kickstarter which once again proves there is a lot of love for the past out there.
It may sound a little cliché today but without the past, modern games would not be what they are today. Every new title we see today takes some inspiration from a previous title and brings something new to the formula. Yes, the same can be said for films, books, music etc the main point I’m getting at is, without that past we can’t move forward.