Yes, there’s no secret that I love older games just as much as I love modern games. There are those who understand the love and others who literally laugh at me when I explain the love for retro games. There’s not a conversation that’ll go by, even with close friends, whereby my opinion is countered with a “oh, you should just go play one of those old games LOLOLOLOL”. So cliché.
So what exactly is considered a retro game? There’s no exact formula, but in my mind it’s any game from two generations back. So, in current times that’s the Dreamcast, PS2, GameCube and original Xbox era. Some people would agree and others would disagree, but that formula works for me. In my collection I own the Atari 2600 (though I can’t get it working), SEGA Master System, SEGA Mega Drive, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, SEGA Saturn, PlayStation 1, Nintendo 64, SEGA Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Nintendo Gamecube and Xbox. Each and every console is connected to the one of two TV’s and can be powered on right away, though I turn the switch off on the wall to avoid unnecessary Eskom invoices. I’ve also got an arcade cabinet with 400 games on it as pictured below:
So why the hell play these old games? Depending on your era it might differ. Nostalgia is the biggest culprit as you’ll have a certain picture of a game in your head, but it could also trigger a memory of a time in your life. A time when a particular game tied in with an unforgettable moment in your life. For example, I always tie Contra, Double Dragon II and Megaman 2 and 3 (or Rockman as we knew it) in with great holidays I had with friends when we were still at school (high school no less, yes I’m old). Playing Tekken 3 takes me back to a time when I used to take part in small tournaments in Durban where I met new gamers friends and got horribly drunk with winnings I had made. I also bought Metal Gear Solid 2 on the day my dad past away. MGS 2 SPOILER INCOMING: I bawled my eyes out when E.E. died, as earlier that day I was told my father died. SPOILER END. I have an emotional bond with that game, and sometimes, not always, but sometimes it’s good to revisit it. There are many older games that tied in with a particular event in my life and revisiting those brings back those memories.
Retro games also serves a reminder that publishers are a bunch of greedy motherf#%kers these days. Slip a disc into the Xbox, PS2, GameCube, Dreamcast era (or cartridge if it’s older) and you’ll never have to update a game. There’s no day 1 patch. There’s no DLC. There’s no Microtransactions. It’s a complete game and it works… offline. I won’t deny that there are one or two titles that could do with a patch, but in those days it was considered a bad game and we did not buy it. As simple as that. When looking at the PS4 or Xbox One I wonder if I’ll be able to play most the games on there in 20 years time. I should probably not worry too much as it’ll all be remastered anyway, but that’s when you ask the question – is the PS4 and Xbox One really still a console?
Playing these older games also makes me realise just how petty gamers have become. Gamers can’t just enjoy a game anymore. Nope, they have to give their two cents as to why the game is crap because the blade of grass is not rendering as it should or animated enough. Meantime I’m playing Gunstar Heroes alongside a friend and not giving a flying f#%k that the sprites are dated as I’m having far too much fun.
Switching on any of my older consoles brings this sense of enjoyment back in my life. Holding the original controller in my hand takes me back in time. It’s also an indication of just how far hardware has evolved over the years. Playing Alien Trilogy using the D-Pad on the SEGA Saturn is not easy, but they made it work with the limited tech available at the time. You then take some time to look at the manual – yes, games still had thick manuals. Not that most of us used it, but the box the game came in felt solid. As if you’re GETTING YOUR MONEYS WORTH. I still love modern games, the recent Rise of the Tomb Raider was a return to the oldschool games I miss so much. A great single player experience that takes advantage of the hardware its on. One day (in 15 years or so) that too will be considered a retro game by me.
Obviously this brings PC emulation into the equation. It’s definitely a great option and nowadays you can buy a controller that looks and feels just like the original (SNES, PS1, Mega Drive, etc) and it’s powered via the USB port. If money or the lack of really caring stands in your way then this is possibly the best option out there as you can download all those old games for “free” (it’s really pirated, but you should know that by now). There is however, for me, no greater feeling than owning a collection of physical games. Perhaps it’s just me, but it brings a smile to my face. That’s what my pile is looking like (that excludes the PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Wii U games) and it should be noted that there are much bigger retro collectors on the SA Gamer forum that’ll put that little pile to shame:
Retro gaming reminds me of good times, bad times, events in my past and a measuring stick for just how far we’ve evolved over the years. It’s a pure time in gaming. Some will get it, others won’t and that’s okay. As long as you’re enjoying games in some form it really does not matter. Chances are that in years from now you’ll think of Gears of War, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, The Witcher 3, etc. as a defining time in your life. You might just start it up in 2030 and it’ll take you on a trip down memory lane to see how far we’ve progressed… and you might just enjoy it. That’s the beauty of retro.