Retro Gaming: Why Do We Do It?

By Kyle S. - Sun Apr 28, 9:28 pm

SuperMarioBros

The popularity of retro gaming has risen rapidly in recent years, but why? Is it just nostalgia? Is it a fad brought about by internet personalities like the Angry Video Game Nerd? Is it a desire to look back at our roots and see how far we’ve come in a generation where graphics border on photorealism and storytelling has matured to the point where gaming is debated as an art form?  Or have we rediscovered past gems that truly hold up today?

I own at least one console from every generation since the 8-bit era and  I play them all on a fairly regular basis. Obviously, I consider myself to be a big retro gamer. As such, it’s always been my belief that games don’t really age. Old movies are just as good today as they were when they were new, regardless of how long ago they came out, so why wouldn’t the same be true of video games? I own these games because they are the games I grew up playing, but nostalgia isn’t the reason I still play them. I legitimately enjoy them in the same way I enjoy new releases.

My opinion isn’t the only one out there, so I turned to my fellow retro gamers to gather a general consensus on why we play old games. The responses I got were pretty unanimous. For the most part, everyone I talked to grew up playing the games that are now considered to be retro. When asked about the effect that time has had on these games, everyone agreed that while some old games have aged quite poorly, most of them still hold up. If a game was good when it released, it’s still just as good now. The responses varied a bit more when asked why they are interested in retro gaming. For some people, it was interesting to see how video games have evolved over time, and seeing the roots of gaming added to their appreciation of what it has become in recent years.  For others, it’s the joyful simplicity or an intangible quality that is lacking in new  games.

Retro gaming isn’t for everyone though. For those who grew up playing these games, revisiting them can be a great experience, regardless of your reasons for doing so. However, some of the retro gamers I spoke to pointed out that people raised on more recent games may not enjoy retro games like we do. They may find the lack of modern conveniences like checkpoints and autosaves to be frustrating, especially when paired with the notorious difficulty of old-school platformers and side-scrolling action games. Someone who is used to the eye-popping HD visuals of modern games may also find retro games to be a bit of an eyesore, further preventing them from finding the same enjoyment that we find in old games.

Regardless of our reasons for retro gaming, it’s clear that it is not just a fad. As long as video games exist, retro gaming will exist. For us, retro gaming means breaking out the NES or the Sega Genesis, but one day, a whole new generation of gamers will be dusting off an old Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 and revisiting old classics like Halo: Reach or God of War III.

Thanks to the “I Watched The Entire Overblood Super Replay” group on Facebook for answering my questions!

2 Comments

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  1. 0

    It could be a variety of things. It could be the rise of AVGN or others but don’t forget there are popular internet personalities that review modern games (like Angry Joe). Here’s my two theories:

    *The hipsterization of everything is mainstream now and with hipsters, retro/old things are cool.

    *I think the biggest factor though is the lack of interesting new games. Every year we see a new COD or Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, and we get so many first-person military shooters it’s sickening. I grew up with the SNES and I’ve returned to it and other older systems because not much interests me this gen anymore.

  2. 0

    I have pretty much the opposite opinion. It seems more like most of the most vocal retro supporters barely play retro games at all, and just don't see past nostalgia for what used to be new to them.

    I gave more detail about it on a blog I write for (linked to the left), but personally I feel that retro games tend to be overrated and both devs and gamers shouldn't keep looking to the past.

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