I often find myself asking this question whenever I decide to sit down and turn on the system of my choosing (I have 13!!!). In most cases, even when I decide to turn on my Wii U or X-Box 360, I constantly find myself reaching for or downloading a game from the past. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of fun to be had with Mario Kart 8 and The Evil Within, but there’s a certain excitement and satisfaction I get when my HD television blares an 8-bit gem like Super Mario Bros. or the original Legend of Zelda. Call it what you want (nostalgia, old age, DeLorean syndrome), but retro games are where it’s at for me. I say this as I stare at my still unopened Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U that has been sitting on my shelf now for over a month.
This led me to an internal debate of…what exactly is retro gaming, anyway? For that answer, I look to the most trustworthy site on the internet…Wikipedia, of course:
“Retrogaming, also known as classic gaming and old school gaming, is the playing or collecting of older personal computer, console, and arcade video games. Usually based upon systems that are obsolete or discontinued, these games are played either on the original hardware, on modern hardware via emulation, or on modern hardware via ports or compilations.”
So there’s your answer…or is it? The more I think about it, I’m not entirely sure the concept of retro gaming is accurate. Sure, the systems may be obsolete, but the games, particularly the more iconic ones, have stood the test of time and been re-released, updated, and in some cases, completely reimaged. A perfect example of this is Pac-Man. Pac-Man has been around for over thirty years, so by definition you would consider Pac-Man a retro game. However, there have been so many incarnations of Pac-Man, most recently the fantastic Pac-Man Championship Edition in 2007, that brings up the following question: If the formula is tweaked and re-released, is the new release a retro game or a modern game? Does the update eliminate the original game from being a retro game, or will that game always be a retro game because of when it was released?
I can already sense I’m putting way too much thought into this idea, and I’m all for settling in to the current definition of what defines a retro game, but since the advent of cell phone games like Candy Crush and Bejeweled, where the concepts and challenge and eerily similar to games that were created in the 80’s, I find myself redefining what truly is a retro game. Casino Kid? City Connection? MegaMania? To me, those are retro games because they existed on their systems and were never heard from again, whereas Metroid, Pac-Man and X-Men the Arcade Game have reappeared as console downloads in the last ten years. These games are still relevant (to a degree) with gaming audiences and I have a hard time categorizing them into the generalized concept of a retro game.
So, I guess in closing all I can say is I am a retro gamer, but if you ask me what a retro game is, I might not agree with the way you view it. Still, it doesn’t stop me or anyone else having fun.
Happy retro gaming, all!