At some point we will have to consider trying new genres, holding developers responsible for bad titles and discussing games in a mature manner, but first I think it is important to look at how the games industry got to where it is today. If youíre old enough, why not go up into your attic and dust off your old consoles (if you still have them) and give Retro gaming a try? There is a great deal of enjoyment to be had from the titles of yesteryear as well as a lot to learn. Recently I have spent more time on my Sega Mega Drive (thatís Sega Genesis to you yanks) than I have on my Xbox 360 and I can honestly say Iíve had just as much fun for a fraction of the price.
Part 2: Give Retro a go
Taking a look in my local videogame store, cash in hand, I wasnít impressed with the drivel we settle for. Buggy games, clones of existing franchises and endless sequels were displayed as far as the eye can see. Then I walked down the street and happened across a second-hand store that proudly sold Retro games and consoles and was blown away by the spectacle I beheld. Imagine it: whichever way I turned I was met with friendly old machines, cartridges and memory cards. Sonic and Mario smiled down at me from their boxes and the walls were lined with strategy guides with yellowing pages and magazines boasting about the awesome processing power of the new Commodore Amiga 500.
Plastic figurines of characters from my childhood waved from glass cabinets; Game Boys and Spectrums were proudly displayed rather than lost and forgotten. My head swam with thoughts of Final Fantasy games on the Playstation, Zelda games on the Nintendo 64 and Paperboy on the NES. I emerged into the fading daylight with bags of my favourite games, enough to keep me occupied for months, and it struck me: I had just bought all these fantastic games and machines for the price of ONE new Playstation 3 title.
The enjoyment didnít just stem from the fact I saved money, but because these old games are just as fun as the day they were released. Do you remember the feeling you had the first time you collected all seven chaos emeralds and transformed sonic into super sonic or the rush of finally defeating the Ruby Weapon in Final Fantasy 7? Donít you owe it to yourself to keep those memories alive and treasure these old games?
Is it really that bad?
The games we now think of as old and worthless are what shaped us into the gamers we are. I personally still have a soft spot for Frogger and Streets of Rage. The people developing our games today are no doubt doing so because of their love of Pac-man, Galaga and Gauntlet and if we donít try to keep these games alive then it would be like losing a piece of our heritage. Give Retro games a chance and you will discover some truly amazing titles you never knew existed and you may even discover a passion for a new type of game without breaking the bank. Recently a friend and I spent an entire weekend playing Road Rash 2 and had a fantastic time. We moved on to play Toejam & Earl through to completion and had to pat ourselves on the back for finishing a game that didnít save our progress every five minutes and required dedicated teamwork and communication, traits missing from a lot of games nowadays.
I know a lot of people are put off by outdated graphics and challenging gameplay (Ghouls & Ghosts is great fun but horrifically brutal), but is it really that bad? The 8-bit characters and midi soundtracks may be a bit archaic but they conjure up old memories of trips to the toy store with parents, of blowing the dust off of cartridges and entering cheat codes found in magazines. The same way a classic movie is timeless, so are these old titles. They represent the evolution of our great medium and if we can still enjoy them ten, twenty, thirty or more years down the line then they must have been doing something right. (I donít care who you are, playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES is still brilliant fun)
You donít even have to go that far back to have a good time. If, like me, you came to gaming a bit later than others (I only began gaming in the early 90s) then why not get out your old Gamecube or Dreamcast (bet thatís one console you forgot about) and play some Metroid Prime or Shenmue? (Yes, Shenmueís voice acting is really bad, but it adds to the nostalgia). These games still have a lot of character and highlight the advancements weíve made in just a few short years.
What do you gain by playing these old titles? How will it make you a better gamer? By teaching you about the history of gaming you will view modern games in new ways. As with any media, having a repertoire of things to draw from will give you a whole new approach to how you see gaming. You will notice some things that have always been there in games (Mario still jumps on enemyís heads) and some things that have changed (Sonic was best left in 2D). By taking note of what makes a game fun, what gameplay elements are still used and which are dropped you can begin to make more informed decisions on what to buy in the future.
Treasure the past
How will this further the cause of gaming? Though games are most definitely mainstream, they are still looked down upon by those who donít know any better than what Fox News tells them. By showing people that we are a group that treasures its past and learns from it we can make videogames more respectable with a rich history. Gaming isnít just about the newest, most powerful machines and throwing out the old titles we loved so much; we should all keep the games we grew up on close to our hearts and show our appreciation to the people who made them by giving them a go every now and then. By showing the public we still care about old games we donít appear to be such a collection of fickle peons with small attention spans that leap at the sight of a new platform and leave the machines we loved so much to gather dust in cupboards or decay in landfill sites.
So please, when you are bored and fed up with killing people online (perhaps fed up of being sent abusive messages because of your play style) maybe take a little while to invite a friend over and play a few rounds of Micro Machines. I guarantee you will have a great time. You wonít have an achievement for doing it but you will have the satisfaction of knowing youíre doing your part to keep great old games alive.
What old games have you played recently? Was it as good as you remembered? And what have you noticed that is different about gaming then and now? Iíd love to hear your views and stories about games of bygone eras. Comment below!