Whether or not a game or system qualifies as retrogaming is something difficult to quantify and something that different people will often think of very differently. The ‘retro’ in the word ‘retrogaming’ is itself a bit misleading. Retro, by definition, is a style that intentionally evokes memories of an older style that has since gone out of style. So the movies of the 30s are not retro, but The artist, a recent movie made in the style of an old silent movie, is retro. If we apply the same logic to video games, something like Mega Man it’s not retro but a game like Shovel knight it’s because it pays homage to the NES games of yesteryear. Gamers have appropriated the word “retro” in the new word “retrogaming”, but unlike the traditional definition, “retrogaming” refers to playing old games rather than games that are played like old games.
The origins of the word ‘retrogaming’ are, as we have established, rather murky to begin with, but the definition is no clearer. With the speed at which technology develops, games released at the beginning of a console generation look noticeably worse than those released at the end of the generation. And that’s just the lifespan of a single console. Games visibly age quite quickly, but in terms of the actual number of years since they were released, they may not be that old. It also doesn’t help that the contemporary indie development scene has a fascination for making games that look and deliberately play like games of yesteryear. Everything is so confusing. At what point does a game qualify as old enough to be considered retrogaming?
Well, depending on who you talk to, you will probably get a different answer. Someone like me, who has been playing video games for over twenty years and started my gaming life with a Commodore 64, will have a completely different perspective on whether or not a game is old for a child whose first console is the PlayStation 4. But that doesn’t necessarily make either of you right, it’s just a matter of perception. I could watch a game like Clumsy prince for the Commodore 64 as a pretty primitive side-scrolling platformer, but for my dad, who grew up with Stink the game was unlike anything he had ever seen.
The PS2 is not a system that instantly comes to mind when I think of retro games; I think sprites, MIDI music, and two dimensions. But those are the eyes of a thirty-two-year-old looking at this, and not a ten-year-old. The likes of The devil can cry, Ico Y Twisted metal: black They’re games that I remember learning about and being impressed by, but to a kid who’s only used to PS4, the games can seem positively archaic.
Since we all, depending on our age and experiences, have different ideas about how old something must be to be old, there has to be some kind of objective rule. For my money, once a system has been discontinued by the manufacturer, we can call it old enough that playing it is considered retrogaming. By that definition, the most recent console to fall under the retro gaming umbrella would be the PlayStation 2, and while some of you might resist and scoff at that, consider this; the PlayStation 2 was released sixteen years ago. Every few years another new console joins the ranks of retro games, and while they may not adhere to our personal retro game ideas, they still meet the criteria.
However, age is only the beginning. All we’ve determined is how long it takes for us to safely refer to something like retro games. If we accept that retrogaming is playing video games or consoles that have since been discontinued, then how these discontinued games are played is the next step in understanding exactly what retrogaming is.
The first and easiest way that we can play old games is to acquire a remaster or a port. These are becoming more and more common in recent years, and the PS4 in particular gets port after port of popular PS3 games (and not so much), as there is no true backward compatibility available for the system. But the PS4 has also seen the release of some older games. Final Fantasy VII Y X Both have been ported to the latest PlayStation console, and even further back than that, Gloomy fandango It has been relaunched with some graphical and control revisions.
As technology evolves, there are also more options available to gamers who only have the current generation of consoles. With a service like PlayStation Now, people don’t even need to buy the old games they want to play, and Sony offers a Netflix-like subscription program to get access to a host of older titles. It’s backward compatibility, almost retro games for a monthly fee. If you have the money and a stable internet connection, this might be a preferable alternative to dusting off your old consoles and struggling to get them to work with your high-end TV.
Another way we can play older games by improving technology is through emulation. This falls into two categories; First, there is the emulation that we see on sites like the PlayStation Store or the Nintendo Virtual Console. Here games are emulated by making your modern console act like an old one. The PS4 recently introduced PS2 games to the PlayStation Store and they run via emulation, just like Nintendo does on the Wii U.
Of course, there is also an illegal emulation. Often times, there is no way to play an old game without illegal emulation. Gloomy fandango It has been relaunched recently on PS4, but before that happened, there was really no way to play the game legally unless you had a very old PC and a copy of the game. While it is technically illegal and basically piracy, there should be a better system in place to make sure that legacy games and platforms are preserved for future generations. A game like Gloomy fandangoYou shouldn’t risk getting lost in time, so while illegal emulation is not necessarily something I strongly approve of, in certain circumstances it may be understandable or even necessary.
The last way we can play old games is old fashioned. That means taking the console it was launched on and a copy of the game itself and playing as God intended. No download, no emulation, no tips, tricks or cheats. Just you, an old console, a dusty old cartridge, and a wired controller. And there is something incredibly satisfying about that.
Playing an old game on a new system feels inherently different than playing it now and playing it. Whatyou played it at the time. I still remember playing Final Fantasy VI when I was a kid working on one of the best JRPGs of all time on my trusty SNES. I am currently playing the game again on my PlayStation Vita and the game is as good as ever. The new technology that powers the handheld means that the game runs smoothly, controls well, and looks as charming as ever. But playing it now on a handheld feels different than playing it, as it was released on a control panel connected to a Super Nintendo entertainment system.
There are many reasons to play an old game. It may be that you want to experience historically important moments in the evolution of the medium, or perhaps a shorter arcade title fits your schedule better than the last big blockbuster game. But maybe you prefer to play old games. Nostalgia can be a powerful agent, and if it’s nostalgia you’re after, there are few better ways to recapture a gaming moment than by playing it on original hardware.
I’ve been interested in retro games for a long time, and it’s not for historical or academic reasons, and it has nothing to do with the amount of free time I have. I enjoy retro games because playing an old game, like watching an old movie or listening to an old song, conjures up memories within me from a long time ago. If I look Return to the future I remember renting the videotape from a local store and watching it on a Sunday afternoon with my parents. When I listen Time Tunnel it does not remind me of Rocky horror, but from old school discos where the song was played regularly.
Similarly, when I hear the initial chords of the Final Fantasy VI theme I don’t think about playing it on my PlayStation Vita, but about being in the spare room of my friend’s house where we would spend a whole day taking turns at the controller to try to reach the end of the story. Playing the game on a SNES feels completely different than playing it on the Vita due to the memories that come back while you hold the controller. There’s something about holding the old controller, blowing the cartridge to get rid of the dust, and powering up a long-ago system. It is not about experiencing history, but about remembering a time when these things they were not history.
Retrogaming can be considered anything up to and including the PS2 generation, and those games can be played through emulation or by obtaining a port or remaster. But for me, retrogaming means playing old games the way we played them back then. Playing a Commodore 64 game on PC via emulation is fine, but actually sitting around and waiting while the tape loads is an entirely different beast. Having NES classics on your Wii U virtual console is a great way to quickly experiment Mega Man goldThe legend of Zelda Again, but there’s something much more satisfying about putting the cartridge in the slot and sitting cross-legged in front of the TV because the controller cable isn’t long enough to reach the couch.
If you are a gamer, you probably have a different interpretation of what retrogaming is for the next player in line. The boy who thinks Crash Bandicoot it’s old. Thirties who grew up with games that came on tapes. The grandfather who played Pong in the arcades. We all have different ideas about what is considered an ancient game. But what retrogaming is for me, what it essentially is, is bringing the past back and reliving good memories of years gone by. This is why there is still a Super Nintendo entertainment system in my house and a few times a year I take it out of the closet under the stairs and spend a weekend under the TV. My friends will come and play Street fighter ii together as we did more than twenty years ago. And there is something incredibly special about that.
What do you think qualifies as retrogaming? Do you like to choose classics to play on PC through emulation? How about waiting for them to get a port to the current generation console you already own? Or maybe you are like me and think there is no better way to experience a game than how it was experienced at launch? Whether it’s through hacking, for academic reasons, or to relive memories, retro gaming is something that gamers of all ages can enjoy.