Thoughts on Why I’m a Retro-ish Gamer

As I said before, everyone who’s into retro or retro-ish gaming and writes/blogs/creates videos/whatever else about it does so for a love of that aspect of the hobby, as well as to share that with others.  Everyone also has their own reason underneath that.  I thought it would be interesting if I shared mine.

Both fun games, but the first just has an extra "something".

I was led down this line of thought by Spider-Man: Edge of Time.  Whenever I play it, I sometimes find my thoughts drifting to Spider-Man, the first three-dimensional Spidey game.

Edge of Time isn’t a bad game, not by any stretch of the imagination—but that first three-dimensional Spider-Man game, that was something else.  You could almost feel that the developers were figuring things out, that they were trying new things to make a really fun experience for gamers.  Edge of Time is fun for what it is—but nothing can recapture that first time.

These days, I think about video games a lot, play when I can, talk about them, read about them—but nothing compares to that first time.  As much as I can enjoy playing through a video game more than once, nothing beats the first time.  You’re not quite sure what you’re doing, still kind of figuring it out as you go—and you weren’t alone.  Through the ‘Nineties, developers and publishers were still kind of figuring it out, too.

Take the shift from two-dimensional games to the third dimension.  Nowadays, it’s almost commonplace, expected.  It makes news when a game isn’t in three dimensions—and even games that are functionally two-dimensional in game play still try to at least have three-dimensional graphics.  Back then, though—it was a whole new frontier, one developers and gamers alike were exploring.

In many games of the era, developers hadn’t a clue what would work or not.  There was no precedent.  I mean, Mario was a smash hit in his side-scrolling platformers—but would he really make the transition to the third dimension well?  Obviously, he did, but that couldn’t have been known at the time.

Doing "whatever a spider can" apparently includes melons.

Then you had the little nods and such from developer to gamer.  For just one example, take Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2.  You had a few humorous secret skaters, but then you had Spider-Man.  He was included as a secret skater because developer Neversoft was the developer for both Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and Spider-Man.  It was a wink and a nod—and it was received wonderfully.  These days, secret skaters (or character sin other games) are expected, but then—that was really interesting, and different.

You get interesting things now, to be sure.  There’s just—something not quite the same.  Most of it is how new it all was.  I keep referencing that newness because it’s an important point.  That newness as gamer and developer alike explored the unknown, as developers tried genres and settings that before then were nearly unthinkable, and gamers threw their money down as fast as they could.  I knew a few youngsters who actually had summer jobs, just to pay for their games.  (Try that one these days.)

Before then, developers and publishers were primarily concerned with if video gaming as a hobby would even work in the first place.  By the ‘Nineties, it was pretty much obvious that gaming was here to stay, so then the only question was what the boundaries were.  Now, those boundaries are pretty much known, in part from the infamous Senate hearings, and in part from gamers starting to realize what they want out of their games.

That’s not to say they didn’t know, before.  It’s just that we had nothing to compare it all to.  Without that comparison, we couldn’t really offer judgement, even of just how much we, individually, liked a title.  In the ‘Nineties, gamers were starting to develop their personal tastes, and developers and publishers were starting to cater to them.  These days, the argument could be made that they cater too much, but back then—well, it wasn’t quite a “golden era of gaming”, but it was pretty darn spiffy.

Another fantastic game that deserves a modern-gaming resurrection.

That’s why I, personally, am into older games—why I’m a retro-ish gamer.  It’s not like there weren’t problems in that era.  It’s not like there weren’t bad games, companies who stepped over the line quite a few times to ensure a good bottom line, but in those titles—you could almost feel the fun the developers had making the game, even as they were subject to insanely tight deadlines and strict publisher concerns.

Spider-Man: Edge of Time and its modern-gaming brethren are fun for what they are.  I wouldn’t give them up.  Yet—there was something “more” in those older titles.  It’s not easily defined—but it’s fundamentally important, and something I feel every time I load up one of those games.  It’s something I hope, in whatever small amount, I can impart through these words.


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