The Rapid Rise of Retro Gaming
As gaming becomes more complicated, more lifelike and more in-depth – and with the next generation of super machines already on the horizon – it is perhaps surprising that one niche of the gaming universe is growing so quickly.
Retro gaming – a throwback to the heady gaming days of Spectrums and Commodores, the SNES and the Saturn, the Gameboy and the Coin-op – is rapidly increasing in popularity.
There are many factors fuelling this growth, from simple intrigue to a burning desire to relive youthful days – although players of every age are involved. Let’s look at the reasons for the rapid rise of retro gaming…
For those brought up in the 80s-90s golden age of gaming, a desire to replay the classics so closely connected to their youths shouldn’t be so surprising. Whether it’s the former Spectrum addict looking for Manic Miner on an emulator, the former Coin-op king searching for the arcade thrills of Out Run on a retro games site or the former pub bandit showing his skills on retro fruit machines, the simple nostalgic pull of replaying games you were once so familiar with is a very human thing.
An often overlooked attraction of retro gaming is the inherent simplicity. Often, the best games – and particularly the platformers – were left, right, jump controls with maybe a hit button thrown in if you were lucky. This is in sharp contrast to the massive, multi-layered gameplay available on so many new games these days, where button memory and learning a new game’s ins-and-outs is literally more complicated than driving a car. Sometimes, just sometimes, a gamer longs for something they can just pick up and play.
It might have killed the cat, but curiosity has also been the cause of a good few gamers’ downfalls over the years. For retro games fans, there’s a chance to play those old classics they missed out on or just didn’t have the money for – and for newer gamers it’s a chance to step back in time to where it all began. To go into their parents’ gaming memory banks and realise that, wow!, there was once a time when if you died in a game you really did die – and you just had to start it all over again.
Most of the time retro gaming is incredibly cheap – in fact, retro videogames are usually free. Most can be played in the browser, although gamers might prefer the more authentic feel of an emulator. There is even a commercial retro games industry, with some software houses developing old school games using old code. Even retro slots are cheaper – fewer reels and paylines means cost per spin is lower, so they are naturally more affordable. Plus, there’s no need for all those infernal gaming accessories that will be clogging up those Christmas lists.
Retro gaming is a hard school. Before cheat codes or infinite lives or automatic saving, when you were given 5 lives, 5 lives is what you had. How many retro gamers, I wonder, have toiled for hours over a game only to literally lose their final life at the last screen, leaving no option but to start the game all over again? The 20 screens of Manic Miner might not seem a lot – but boy, that challenge remains a viciously addictive one. And anyway, what’s wrong with a bit of genuine peril when you’re gaming?
Some game fans really enjoy learning about the history of gaming. For them, it’s not just about the latest extravaganza from Rock Star. How great to have the past as well as the future of gaming at your fingertips. It’s a simple task to enjoy a digital journey back in time – and it’s surprising what references and ideas you discover in older games.
Has anyone ever really enjoyed the tutorial? Just when you’re itching to get stuck into the latest batch of button mashing along comes the introductory curse of modern gaming. No, the tutorial is for the birds – and retro gaming with its simple aims, plotlines and gameplay very rarely, if ever, needs one.
Retro always looks cool, right? Whether its clothes, interiors or hairstyles, there’s something about the best looks of yesteryear that never ages. The same goes for gaming – as anyone who’s played Starquake on a Spectrum, Doom on a PC or Metal Gear Solid on an original Playstation will testify.
Don’t think the limited size and scale of retro games means an absence of creativity. On the contrary, the strict boundaries regularly brought the best out of envelope-pushing coders whose constant innovation was a source of joy to nascent gamers. So much so that the developers of today regularly use old games as sources of inspiration – in much the same way an old blues track might unlock something for a Pro Tools-using DJ looking for his next floor filler.