Here at CGC we have many articles about old games like this one on Ape escape or this one on Indiana Jones and the emperor's tomb. These are all fantastic reviews by fantastic writers. You may notice that out of all the articles on the site about older games none of them are written by me. There is a reason for that. I don't like to play retro games.
Over the years I have had many a day where I thought to myself, remember that old game I am going to play that. Then I play it for like 10 minutes, give up and never look at it again. Why is this? This is because replying a retro game can never live up to the years of nostalgic memories I have built up in my head.
Before we go any further I feel like I must clarify a few things, mainly so I don't get attacked online by a bunch of angry retro game fans but also to give you a better context for what you are about to read. Firstly, this article is not to attack anyone who enjoys retro gaming. If you love retro gaming then let your freak flag fly, you will get no protest from me. Secondly, I am not knocking retro games. Most games that are considered retro I have played in some form or another. I consider the act of retro gaming a different experience to retro games. Although, I am aware that the former can’t exist without the latter. The third and final point I would like to clarify is that this is all based on my own experience with retro gaming and the feelings it has given me over the years.
Now that you have a better idea where I am coming from, let's get into why I just can not hitch my wagon to that retro gaming train.
Retro gaming vs retro games.
According to a very quick and unverified Google search a retro game is any game that is 15 or more years older than the current year. Going by this definition that would make games like Doom 3, Far Cry, Fable, Metal Gear 3: Snake Eater, GTA San Andreas, Half Life 2, KOTOR 2, Burnout 3 which were all released in 2004 be considered retro. Not to mention everything that came before it such as; Super Mario, Pokemon, Street fighter, Pac-man, Resident evil, space invaders you get the idea. All these games that fall into the retro category are games that I have played, I have loved and have attached specific memories to. Like I said earlier I am not here to hate on retro games because retro games were all once brand new experiences to me and everyone else. Most of the games I listed I played when they were released apart from a few because well, I wasn't born yet so don't hold that against me. You may be asking yourself why am I getting a lesson on what is considered a retro game? The reason is to help give you an idea of what I think the difference is between retro gaming and retro games and why I think one is better than the other.
Retro gaming is considered to be the collecting or playing of old personal computer games and there my friends, is the difference. Retro gaming is about returning to old games long after their release. This is part of retro gaming I take issue with. Not the collecting of old games as an avid collector of many things I take no issue with that. It's the playing I take issue with. The reason being, while all the games that are considered retro are fantastic (well not all). To me everyone of these games just can't compare to that first time you set a high score on Pac-man or the heart stopping moment when the dogs jump through the window in resident evil. Once you know what is going to happen the magic of discovery is lost. All those wonderful gaming memories of playing a game and thinking, wow this is the pinnacle of technology how will they ever top this. No amount of replying a game can ever give you that feeling and let's be honest with ourselves by now, no matter which old game you are playing they have topped it.
A magpie's mindset.
I am always on the lookout for the new shiny thing not unlike a magpie. I want a new experience, something that makes me say that's something I have never seen or played before. This is not just true of gaming, its film, TV, books and so on. This is my driving force behind wanting to be entertained. Don't get me completely wrong I understand the appeal of the familiar. Wanting to rewatch a TV show so you don't have to give it too much focus after a long day of work. However gaming is an entertainment medium that by it very nature requires focus. You need to keep a keen eye on the screen to know what's happening in order to press the correct button to move further through the game world. It's one of the only forms of entertainment that asks its consumer to actively take part. So, if i have to actively focus and take part why not use that energy to experience something new.
Sometimes the act of playing a retro game requires extra energy because it's not as simple as turning on a device and booting up a game. I know these days you can go on to most digital store fronts and find retro games but often the only way to play them is on the device they were originally released for. This then requires you to firstly have the device, which I am sure is not a problem for most but it certainly is for me. Okay so you have the device, what next? Well you have to connect it to the TV. Easy right? Except your TV was made in 2019 and the gaming device was made in 1995. You may as well be trying to connect a horse to a truck trailer. It just seems like more trouble than it's worth. Maybe you do have the older model TV excellent, but I don't fancy cluttering up my limited space with something I might use once a year. Then there is game emulation which our own Phil Keogh wrote about the importance of here. Emulation is a great way for people who don't have old gaming devices to experience games. However, it comes with its own set of headaches. Having to install certain drivers on your computer, having to get game files from less than reputable sources on the internet and so on. Again, to me it's just too much trouble.
Hopefully by this point you are still reading and my old man yells at cloud style ranting hasn't sent you running for the hills. If you are still here there is one thing left for me to talk about when it comes to my retro gaming aversion. Gameplay.
Swimming through custard.
Gameplay, the art of playing a game. Controlling a character as they fight, skateboard, do backflips or whatever it may be. Gameplay is what sets video games apart from all other media. Without gameplay you just have an animated film. I mentioned earlier that games require more of our concentration and energy to enjoy them. Most of that energy is spent on gameplay. So, in the little time I have to play games, why should I waste my time playing a game where the characters feel like they are trying to swim through custard. All of the retro games I have played over the years just don't play well to me. Don’t get me wrong I know without most of these amazing games we would not have the gameplay mechanics that we have today. It would be ignorant for me to say otherwise but there is a reason that we have all the great mechanics we have today. People worked hard to improve ideas, come up with solutions to problems and give us gamers the tools to feel like the most powerful badass characters possible.
As much as I adore a game like Metal Gear Solid, no amount of time and arguing will convince me that it plays well by today's standards. That doesn't make it a bad game, it just means we have moved on in terms of technical skill and ability. I much prefer that a character I am in control of do what I ask of them in a smooth and efficient manner. I don't think that's an unreasonable request. A lot of people complain about remakes and remasters of games. Not me. I am all for them. I know it means I have to fork over my hard earned money for a game I have probably owned already but if it means I can play the game with updated modern controls then that is a small price to pay. That being said remakes and remasters still cannot compare that first time you play a game and have its story and gameplay unfold before you over days or weeks.
It's just never the same.
As I stated at the start I am not writing this article to attack anyone or any group of people. I write this article to explain my views on retro gaming. As a person who does not enjoy it you can sometimes feel like an outcast in the gaming zeitgeist. All these old games are held in such high regard that when you say you don't like to play them people can often get very defensive before you get the chance to explain why you don't like them. I love most of these games just like you do and the memories I have of them will stick with me for a lifetime but replying often has a negative impact on those memories. I work in games retail and I will often have customers say to me “they don't make them like the SNES or Sega '' or whatever. It’s true they don't make them like that anymore because technology has moved on and now they make them better. I can understand why people would say this, I have nostalgic longings as much as the next person.However, I just know in my heart that nostalgia is always rose tinted and never lives up to my original memories I have of sitting cross legged on the floor watching moments such as Sephiroth killing Aerith in Final Fantasy 7.
Sega controller pic supplied by Paul Mason
GTA and Metal Gear Solid images taken from here.
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