Whether or not a game or system qualifies as retrogaming is a tough thing to calibrate the other that differing people will often think very differently about. The ‘retro’ in the word ‘retrogaming’ is in itself a bit of a little bit unreliable. Retro, by definition, is a style that intentionally evokes memories of an older style that has since gone out of fashion. So movies from the ’30s aren’t retro, but the Artist, a current movie manufactured in the style of an old silent movie, is retro. If we apply the same judgement to video games then similar to Ultra Man isn’t retro, but a game like Shovel Knight happens because it pays respect to the NES games of old. Gamers have appropriated the word ‘retro’ into the new word ‘retrogaming’, but unlike the traditional definition, ‘retrogaming’ refers to playing old games rather than games that play like old games.
The beginning of the word ‘retrogaming’ are, as we’ve established, pretty murky to begin with, but the definition isn’t clearer. With the speed at which technology develops, games released at first of a console generation look clearly worse than those released at the end of the generation. And that is just the duration of a single console. Games visibly age quite quickly, but in MEGAGAME terms of the actual number of years since release they might not be so old. It also doesn’t help that the contemporary indie development scene has a fascination with making games that look and play by choice like games of yesterday. It’s all so confusing. At what point does a game qualify as old enough to be considered retrogaming?
Well, depending on who you talk to you will likely get a different answer. Someone like me who has been playing video games for over two decades and started my gaming life with a Commodore sixty four is going to have an entirely different perspective on whether a game is old or not to younger whoever first console is the Ps3 4. But that doesn’t necessarily make either of us right, it’s just a matter of perception. I might look at a game like King Clumsy for the Commodore sixty four as a fairly primitive side-scrolling platformer, but to my father who grew up with Pong the game was like nothing he’d ever seen.
The PS2 isn’t a system that instantly springs to mind when i think of retrogaming; I think sprites, MIDI music, and two dimensions. But that is the eyes of a thirty two year old game lover looking at this, and not a ten year old. The likes of Demon May Cry, Ico and Sprained Metal: Black are games From the picking up and being impressed by, but for a child used just to PS4 the games might look positively archaic.
Since we all, depending on our age and experiences, have different ideas about how old something has to be to be old, there has to be some sort of objective rule. For my money, once a system has been stopped by the manufacturer then we can safely call it old enough for playing it to be considered retrogaming. By that definition, the most recent console to belong to the patio umbrella of retrogaming would be the Ps3 2, and while some of you might balk and scoff at that look at this; the Ps3 2 was released sixteen years ago. Every few years another new console joins the ranks of retrogaming, and while they might not adhere to what our personal ideas of retrogaming are they still fit the criteria.
Age is just inception, though. All we’ve determined is what amount of time needs to pass for us to safely refer to something as retrogaming. If we accept that retrogaming is playing video games or consoles that have since been stopped, then how one goes about playing these stopped games is the next step in understanding exactly what retrogaming is.
The first and simplest way that we can play old games is to grab a remaster or a port. These are becoming a lot more common in recent years, with the PS4 in particular receiving port after port of popular (and not so) PLAYSTATION 3 250GB games since there’s no true in the opposite direction compatibility available for the machine. But the PS4 in addition has seen some older games see release, too. Final Fantasy VII and X have both been ported to the latest Ps3 console, and going even further back than that, Grim Fandango has been re-released with some graphic and control overhauls.
As technology evolves there are also more options available to players who only have the current generation of consoles. With a service like Ps3 Now, people don’t even need to buy the old games that they want to play, with Sony offering a Netflix-like ongoing program to access to a glut of older titles. It’s in the opposite direction compatibility, near-retrogaming for a monthly fee. If you the money and a stable Internet connection then this might be a preferable alternative to dusting off your old consoles and fighting to cause them to work with your high-end television.
Another way that we can play older games via improving technology is through emulation. This falls into two categories; first, there’s the emulation we see on the likes of the Ps3 Store or Nintendo’s Virtual Console. Here games are emulated by making your modern console work like an old one. Recently the PS4 introduced PS2 games to the Ps3 Store and they’re tell you emulation, just like Nintendo do on the Wii You.
Of course, there’s also illegal emulation. Often there’s no way to play an old game at all without illegal emulation. Grim Fandango has recently been re-released on PS4, but before that happened there was actually absolutely no way to play the game legally if you do not just happened to have a early PC and a copy of the game. While it’s technically illegal and basically piracy, there should be a better system in place to make sure that legacy games and platforms are preserved for future generations. A game like Grim Fandangoshouldn’t run the risk of being lost to time, and so while illegal emulation isn’t just something I’d condone straight up, in some circumstances it can be understandable or even necessary.
The last way that we can play old games is the old fashioned way. That means picking up the console it was released on and a copy of the game itself and playing the thing as God intended. No downloading, no emulating, no tips or tricks or secrets. Just you and an old console and a messy old cartridge and a wired controller. And there’s something incredibly satisfying about that.
Playing an old game on a new system feels inherently different to playing it at the time, and playing it howyou played it at the time. I still remember playing Final Fantasy VI when i was an adolescent boy, and working my way through one of the finest JRPGs of all time on my trusty SNES. I’m playing the game again currently on my Ps3 Vita and the game is every bit as good as it ever was. The new technology running the instant means the game runs efficiently, it controls well, and it looks as charming as it ever did. But playing it now on a instant just feels different to playing it as it was released on a control pad tethered to a Super Nintendo Entertainment System.