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May 2015 Retro Gaming Article


May 10, 2015 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Will today's games be remembered fondly 3 decades from now like Space Invaders?

When my son was 5-years old he found my 10-in-1 arcade joystick and wanted to know what it was. I began explaining the golden age of arcades and how awesome it was to go out and play video games with my friends. He looked at me with confusion.

Disney Starcade arcade token Clearly, a demonstration was needed. I hooked up the 10-in-1 and cleared only one screen of Dig Dug before he wanted to play. We played together for a few more screens before he took the joystick and wanted to do it all himself. I was witnessing the same childhood realization I had with my Atari 2600 - the TV was no longer a passive idiot-box. I was controlling the action on the screen. My son now had that same control.

His interest in playing games expanded and we bought a Wii, then a PS3 and finally a NeoGeoX. As much as we enjoy modern games, we always play retro games on one of my childhood Atari consoles. We play favorites from Berzerk and Food Fight to Spider Fighter and Phoenix. He still likes to look through my cartridges and find something new. Maze Craze and Missile Command have been added to our growing list of favorites.

In local arcades we've found Donkey Kong, Joust, Millipede, and Space Invaders. My son understands that these are relics from when I was about his age - unlike H2Overdrive and other such games with 40" screens. We enjoy a mix of old and new games as I try to tell him that Donkey Kong Country really did result from that original arcade game with the angry ape atop the girders.

1980 arcade I've come full circle because the Donkey Kong cabinet I mentioned is in the arcade I used to hang out in during the Summer when I was a teenager. There are far fewer games, but I remember playing Asteroids Deluxe there 3 decades ago. As you can see, video games have made an impact on me. And I know I'm not alone. The Atari brand has been gutted to the core and is an unrecognizable shell of it's former gaming prowess, but everyone remembers their iconic games from the late 70s and 80s.

Barcades and Modern Retro Arcades

Retro arcades and barcades are on the rise these days, making the news because they are popular and successful. Unlike Dave & Busters or Check E Cheese, today's barcades are typically catering to retro gamers. Inside their walls they house classics from the 1980's that are still beloved by many. Their clients remember Atari and other companies that once populated arcades with incredible games. It's all about the memories - and reliving them with a joystick in hand.

Monument Valley Android game What about the teenager who got a PS4 for Christmas last year... will he/she have fond gaming memories of specific titles 30 years from now? What about the kid playing Flappy Bird on his phone? Will he be telling his kids about the time he broke 100 points on Flappy Bird?

Today's Retro Gamers Have More in Common

30 years from now, few titles will stand out as memorable due to sheer volume.
I think retro gaming has a lot to do with commonality. If you were gaming in the late 70s and into the 80s, there is a core set of games many of us know and played. Most of us, from that era, played Space Invaders, Galaxian, and Defender.

Not everyone may have tried Wizard of Wor or Star Castle. Thus when retro gaming unfolds in a conversation, there's often an instant familiarity and sometimes first-hand experience. Obviously the gaming world is larger than a handful of renown games, but the likelihood of future retro gamers having a common core of games is fleeting.

As we see more folks making MAME cabinets with a Raspberry Pi, it becomes obvious that there were many arcade games available, but the renown titles really stood out. As gaming took hold in the home console market, there were even more games. But those early days left many of us with memories of stellar hits like Pac-Man, Centipede, Missile Command, etc.

Thousands of Monthly Game Releases

My son often tells me about iOS games he's discovered and I haven't heard of a single one of them. I remind myself that there are thousands of mobile games hitting online outlets every month. Who can keep up with all of that? After the crash of 83, gamers were craving new titles - any title... just gimme a game for my 2600! Today the market is flooded and great games routinely slip through the cracks daily!

Animal Crossing for Nintendo 3DS The exponential number of games released will likely create a wider divide between gamers of the future who remember their PS4, Xbone, or mobile games. Thirty years from now, you probably won't be able to find a functional 8th gen console. ROMs will rule the retro landscape and those reminiscing about the "good old days" probably won't find as many folks who remember the same titles.

Monument Valley is a beautiful game, but in 30 years will there be gamers reminiscing about it the way today's retro gamers talk about the first time they played Space Invaders?

We live in a disposable society and I fear that video games are now becoming disposable. If you download an iOS game and don't like it, you easily delete it. It's gone from your SD card and soon your memory. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial wasn't a very good game, but it hasn't been forgotten. There are too many games flooding every available device.

I believe retro gamers in 2045 will know Atari as part of gaming's beginnings, but I don't think any specific titles will stand out to them the way today's retro gamers remember the golden age of arcade games. The number of games released across the available devices are staggeringly high to the point that genre's tend to gain traction rather than titles.

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