Thoughts on Retro Gaming in the Modern Age

Unless one has older consoles and the games to go with them, or a used video game store with the same—that works and the money to purchase them–it can be somewhat difficult to get into older gaming in this modern age.

There are a growing amount of software to serve the retro gamer—my personal favorite has to be Krome Studios’ Game Room, for the X-Box 360 and Windows-based computers. It’s not perfect, mind; there are a lot of titles that won’t be found, and obtaining more requires real-world money, but it’s better than most of the alternatives.

One of the problems with it is how much each game costs. If you want to just demo a game on the 360 version, that’s forty Microsoft Points, or the equivalent of fifty cents. Seems fine enough, right? However, test a few games and you burn through that Points card, which means less—well, less anything else to buy.

So you can choose to just purchase a game outright. Now, first, there’s not being sure if you’d even play it—most of the time, emulation is spot-on, but that’s only most of the time, and even so some games just don’t work with the 360 controller and the average computer game pad. (Super Breakout is nearly impossible to control, and I’m not the only one who has a problem with it, not by far.) Second, games usually cost two hundred and forty Points, which means that if you purchase your Points through cards bought at physical retail stores, you’re not really spending your Points efficiently. With an eight-hundred-point-card, for example, you could only purchase three games, and it’s not like the cards are really cheap.

Now, that said, it’s still a darn fine way to get one’s fix of retro gaming—but its imperfections and somewhat counter-intuitive interface make it less than ideal. Once again, though, it’s better than most alternatives.

One of those alternatives are, as mentioned before, owning the actual consoles and games of the era. The problem with that is they aren’t cheap; I’ve seen Atari 2600 consoles go for forty dollars and higher—and that’s before getting any games for it. Sure, you could get a handful of lesser-known titles, but they’re possibly lesser-known for a reason. Titles like Pac-Man or Pitfall! can run fifty dollars or more. The rare ones can cost more than a used car.

Those are just the physical issues in retro gaming. You also have the cultural issues. Younger gamers, or gamers simply focused on more recent titles, sometimes don’t understand the appeal. They look at something like the first Spider-Man game and wonder why one would spend time on a title that’s hard as heck, more repetitive than a broken record, and about as visually appealing as a drying paint. They sometimes have difficulty understanding the memories that come up when one holds that thick joystick in their hands, hearing those beeps of a bygone era.

Further, it’s not like there are really as many ways to gather together and share the experience. Sure, there are expos and such, but they’re comparably few, as well as not being easy to get to—not every retro gamer lives in the United States, after all, nor necessarily close enough to the locations to make attending viable. For modern gaming, one can find a game store or three in even smaller cities. Even if they aren’t centered around video games as such, they still usually have video gamers there, and it’s typically only too easy to get into a conversation about the latest titles.

Those of us interested in older games, almost no matter the era, can face challenges in the passion. It’s not always easy to play older games, much less find fellowship with other retro gamers. Interestingly, though, that’s almost part of what makes it fun—sometimes it can feel like we’re a part of a secret club, of sorts, even if retro gaming blogs and YouTube accounts and such are quite prolific.

Still, if we can overcome the challenges we face, we can find an even deeper enjoyment in our specific aspect of the hobby. If we can find others to share our enjoyment with, it only makes that enjoyment more powerful. Joy shared is joy empowered, after all. So, here’s to sharing joy, whenever and however possible.


One Response to “Thoughts on Retro Gaming in the Modern Age”

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