Being a retro-gamer is a weird hobby. We all love videogames but there are some eras in gaming we love more than others. That’s why this week’s 10 Things that aren’t Sonic is about why being a retro-gamer sometimes sucks but can also be really awesome.
Why it sucks:
5. Explaining it to people
It’s difficult enough to tell someone you spend 2-4 hours a night playing videogames. It’s even harder to tell them you spend it playing a 20-year-old console you bought at a Goodwill store. When a ‘normal’ person thinks of videogames, they see a dude with brown hair and stubble hi-jacking a car or shooting a brown person. Sometimes to them playing a retro game is like comparing your brick shaped cel phone from the 80’s to their iPhone. Our society’s view of technology is ‘newer is better.’ People just want to be on the bleeding edge of tech and pixels don’t represent that ideal. Have you tried to show a kid an old videogame? Once you start blowing into that cart they’re out of here.
4. The community
D-toider Kariomart made a blog post about how he’s fed up with the 8-bit nostalgia culture. I agree with points he made. Much like any medium like film or music, videogames have their snobs. There are fans out there that think games peaked with Donkey Kong. Some cool stuff comes out of game related craftmaking like knittings and custom figures. But, doesn’t it sometimes feel like these people have never played any games other than Pac-Man or the first Final Fantasy? Where’s all the Dynamite Headdy papercrafts and Clash at Demonhead scarves?
Sure, my favorite era in gaming has passed but even I think the games of today have a lot to offer. I prefer to celebrate gaming history as a whole rather than picking one point in time and telling all others to shove it. It’s as stupid as console fanboyism.
3. Console fanboyism
I write for a website called Sega Addicts, I grew up with a Sega Genesis in my home and my favorite console ever is the Sega Dreamcast. But you know what? I love Nintendo, I love Sony, and Microsoft is pretty ok. Console fanboyism is and always has been retarded. I’m not an idiot for owning a PS3 and I wasn’t one then for having a Genesis. When this dumbass thought gets into people’s heads it sticks. To this day I get ‘the SNES was WAY better.’ Shut up. You sound like an asshole. I like videogames. That’s it.
2. Finding games
It was a sad day for me when Gamestop stopped carrying old games. Nowadays if you want to get anything pre-PS2 you’ll have to find a Goodwill or Ebay. There are still a few mom and pop used game shops left around the country but they’re few and far between. I’ve only been able to find one in Philadelphia and it ain’t that great. And depending on what you’re looking for the games can get pretty expensive. The most frequent response to this problem I get is ‘Why don’t you just emulate?’ We all use emulators from time to time but I will always prefer to get the actual cart or disc and play it on the original console. There’s something about that feeling I get that you can’t emulate.
1. The games were HARD!
I’m gonna get some crap for putting this on the list but it’s true. Back in the day games were smaller and didn’t have the technology to convey such deep and twisting stories as we see developers attempt today. Games still cost $50 or higher and you still had to feel like you were getting your money’s worth. To make up for this game creators made their games hard as shit to up the challenge and replayability of their videogames. How many games from your childhood can you think of where you never even saw the second level? If a game came out today like that it would get blasted by reviews and Gamestops would be flooded with used copies.
Why it’s awesome:
5. The community
Sure, I just ragged on the community about how they can be snobbish and closed-minded but they do a lot of awesome things too. It’s the fans that find rare games to rip into emulators so everyone can play them and are still creating chiptunes long after the technology has advanced. People like the gang at Lost Levels, the writers at the Retronauts blog, and Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley fell in love with gaming at a certain time and will continue to create things to keep that era in the minds of everyone for as long as they can.
4. The deals
Yesterday I got a package in the mail that had my third Dreamcast, two controllers, a VMU and a stack of 7 games. This bundle cost me around 35 bucks. The day before that FYE had a sale on PS2 games and I got Yakuza and MDK2 for 14 bucks. And a little while before that I got a Sega Master System, Sonic the Hedgehog, Bubble Bobble, and F-Zero all in box with instruction booklets for 30 bucks. Occasionally you’ll spend upwards of $40 or $50 on one game but sometimes people just want to get rid of them or you find a deal. Most Genesis games start around 1 cent to a dollar on Ebay. I buy a new game once every few weeks or sometimes months and they’ll last me less than a week. But there’s a stack of retro games next to my chair that could last me the next year and it cost less than one new game.
3. Tie-in games were GOOD
Nowadays when a game based on a movie comes out like Iron Man or Despicable Me we just assume they’re going to be bad. And with good reason. 9 times out of 10 movie tie-in games will SUCK. Just check out Kris’s Iron Man 2 review.
But remember when Capcom and Shiny made movie tie-in games? I mention a few in my first 10TTAS column like Aladdin and The Lion King but that’s only a few and only from Disney. We still had games like Duck Tales on the NES, the Spider-Man games, and Goldeneye. You could walk into a store and think “I like Darkwing Duck, I want to play as him.” Then you would and it would be awesome. Now if I like an established property I’ll avoid a game based off of them like the plague. That certainly wouldn’t stop me from buy a Firefly MMO, though (please please please please please).
2. Games could be fucking bananas
Once in a while we’ll get a Katamari Damacy or Nobi Nobi Boy (both from the same dude, neither sold very well) but back in the day we got games that were fucking bonkers all the TIME! Would you rather play as a dark haired guy with stubble who shoots brown people or a mummy who fires a face out of his stomach? Even the spinoffs were wild. It seems today that there’s a set list of spinoffs that developers toss a dart at. It’s always either a board game, tennis, racer or fighting game crossover. I wish there’d be more Puzzle Bobbles or Mean Bean Machines.
1. The history
We all gotta come from somewhere. Maybe it’s just my intense geekiness but I love seeing the way a medium can start from such humble beginnings and become one of the foremost forms of entertainment in the world next to film and television. David Jaffe, the man who gave us God of War and the Twisted Metal series, started his career on the game Mickey Mania. Nintendo used to make toys and card games. Remember when Sega made consoles? Yeah that used to be a thing.
Really, it doesn’t matter what games you like. You can dig on the 8 bit and still wanna mow down some Muslims. We can all get along, old gamers and new.
That’s it for this week’s 10 Things That Aren’t Sonic, Sega homies. Got any ideas for what I should do next week? I’m thinking of making a list of my favorite Sega references in the Penny Arcade archives, so let me know your favorites too. Just shoot me an email, leave a comment on this post or check out our thread in the forum.