Alan Smithee

Why Does Retro Mean So Damned Much To Gamers?

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How I Used to See Life

Hi, Xopher here, I was thinking last night as I was walking on my treadmill about the shelves of games that I have stacked up in my basement just eagerly awaitng me to breathe life (literally with the NES games) into them once again. I wondered why I am more apt to play the games that I already own and have owned for over a decade instead of the newness and hotness that is out on the market today.

Let me preface this before I continue, I am in no way a Retro-eliteist. I do enjoy games that are out and new, shit I’ve been playing Gears of War 2 and Rock Band 2 since Christmas. So don’t think that I’m solely a retro gamer, that’s just not the case.

Since having my child, I find myself with even more limited time to do the things that I enjoy doing, gaming being one of them. I guess that I probably am more enamored with playing something that I’m comfortable with and don’t have to do much thinking about. I want the time that I do get to allow me to escape real life for as long and as completely as possible.

OMG GIRL PLAYING METROIDZ!!!

For some reason, I only get that feeling with 8-Bit and 16-Bit games from my childhood…

Sure, we had the release of Street Fighter 2 HD Remix and Mega Man 9 in the last 6 months which satiated my retro lust, but the biggest problem I had playing these titles is that I was FULLY aware that I was playing them on an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3.

I don’t quite know how to put my finger on it, but there is something solid and quiet about old gaming systems. It’s probably the lack of cooling fans, disc trays, ambient lighting, and wired controllers that are lighter-than-air compared to anything you get from the current generation that make me have that nostalgic feeling. But it could very well could be me just getting older and more and more resolute about not letting go of that bit of childhood that I can still feel.

I came when i saw these all stacked together like this...just so you know.

That’s me in a nutshell, a forever aging guy trying to cling on to the shreds of his childhood. That probably describes a larger percentage of the retro gaming crowd than I previously thought, but what about all of the next-gen retroists?

Age may play a role, but it isn’t everything when it comes to being a retro gamer. Take my friend Gibbo as an example, he was born after many of the systems I grew up with. I’m talking past the NES, past the Gameboy and was probably only a small child/infant during the glory days of the SNES and the Sega Genesis/MegaDrive.

Even though he didn’t have time growing up with many of these systems like I did, he is a staunch supporter of all things retro, and he doesn’t even have the nostalgia factor assigned to them! If you were to ask him why he enjoys them, he’d probably just tell you that “they’re fun”. I mean, his favorite game is Sonic 2 for Crom’s sake. It does an old man’s heart good to know that classics like that will always be around to the newer generations.

It makes me wonder…am I looking too deep for a reasoning as to why people like me enjoy gaming on classic consoles? I probably am, but you have to admit that there are a whole gamut of reasons as to why we retro game. From the short list I can think of, you’ve got:

  • Nostalgia (as in my feeling like a child all over again when I play)
  • Difficulty (nothing as cool as beating Contra without the Konami Code)
  • Control (reason #1 why my dad stopped gaming with me)
  • Story (save the princess, kill everything, and even nonsensical ones like Fester’s Quest)
  • Simplicity (Super Mario Bros. is a perfect example, you run to the right, jump, and avoid death)
  • Graphics (charming sprite characters that aren’t trying for realism)
  • Sound (I can’t tell you how many NES games I have the soundtrack for, also how do explain the Minibosses?)

I've killed probably near 2 million of these little fuckers trying to power up my weapons in Secret of Mana, see the best place to get quick kills is that little section of the world map where you can go 4-5 screens and just kill little fuckers like this and the countless mushbooms out there too, fuck I love Secret of Mana!

I don’t know really why I do the things I do like spending over $80 for a complete copy of Secret of Mana or buying $20 mediocre games on the NES that I probably haven’t ever played more than 5 minutes a piece. I just know that I’ll keep on doing it as long as I am able to and will pass along my entire collection to someone who I know will take care of it. Games are meant to be played, not be commodities. I’ll leave you to stew on that while I go and ponder something else.

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