Top 10 Reasons Why I Enjoy The Retro Gaming Community
I enjoy the retro gaming community. What follows is ten reasons why, in no particular order.
Disclaimer: This feature is, in no way, something “against” modern gaming. I believe that many in the retro gaming community tend to be very quick to denounce the modern scene, for better or for worse, and may want to jump eagerly to that conclusion. While there are some valid reasons one can dislike any grouping, this top-10 list is intended to be primarily positive and celebratory in tone. Feel free to express opinions in the comments section, though. And one more thing: Inclusion on this list does not preclude exclusion from said list item applying to another group. … In other words: If I say retro gamers are fantastic, that does not mean that nothing else is fantastic, so there is no need to hunt me down with strange accusations.
1. We have diverse opinions.
Quick: State your opinion on the NES game Zelda II: The Adventure of Link in a single sentence. I bet if you tried this exercise with ten retro gamers, you would receive opinions ranging from it being their favorite game to those who utterly hate its difficulty level and departure in style from the first Zelda title. Retro gamers can hardly agree on what “retro gaming” even means, or where the boundary lines are. We can dial into the specific boss characters for one Mega Man game and endlessly relist our rankings for favorites. Having a wide set of opinions means being able to have in-depth, organic, insightful conversations. Being forced to defend your view on a game is a great way to sharpen your own intellect, and the resulting discussions are definitely enjoyable.
2. We are passionate.
Retro gamers will learn how to write assembly code in order to put their dream game onto a cartridge that will likely not sell enough copies to truly make their time on it profitable in a meaningful monetary sense. They will swear at each other, unfollow each other on Twitter, and yell IN ALL CAPS over the differing opinions on the ultimately meaningless minutiae of classic games. Some will drive across the country to attend or help host an event. We spend hundreds of hours of our lives, every year, just playing old video games and talking about them. Our hobby is just as legitimate and involving as any other can be. Without such fiery zeal, the enjoyment would suffer.
3. We are unpredictable.
Kickstarter is revolutionizing fundraising for indie developers, many of whom are producing retro-style games, or even high-definition remakes of projects close to the hearts of many retro gamers. Did you always want to play a game about a pixelated lumberjack who punches bears right in the face? That game is called Fist of Awesome, and it is in development thanks to donors. I am proud to say I supported that, and delighted to say that I never knew such a game would be made. But outside of the titles themselves, you know what specific event inspired me to include this item on the list? The fact that some guy on Twitter paid me $1 to write this top-10 list in a timely manner. I suppose I should mention that for full disclosure anyway; but, authorial integrity aside, did I know that would happen? No, and it is just one tiny enjoyable wrinkle among thousands of points of unpredictability in this population. What will happen next?
4. We are many.
Consider this factoid from the book of knowledge: Over 60 million units of the Nintendo Entertainment System console were sold. Many of us know, for a fact, that millions of these units were used by multiple people in a household, such as siblings or visiting friends. This means that, to use an arbitrary estimation, there may be over 80 million people walking the face of planet Earth that have fond memories of the NES, and might be interested in reading nostalgic works about it. This is not even to touch on Sega systems, PC gamers, portable fans, PS1 owners, arcade players, European microcomputer users, etc. Basically, there are millions and millions of us, even if we need to overcome the challenge of finding and connecting with each other. Some of us are trying, as is evident by the growing voices in social media, and the pursuit is enjoyable.
5. We avoid some areas of controversy.
The retro gaming community is not immune to drama, and will be quick to remind you of this fact in case you ever forget. However, due to intractable characteristics of the medium, retro gaming can avoid some topics that modern gaming gets embroiled in. Modern gaming is not the enemy here, but let me give one example: Many gaming websites are funded by advertising, with much of that advertising coming from gaming companies. This, as perceived by many, would seem to potentially cause a conflict of interest, since staff members at aforementioned websites often offer supposedly objective reviews of the games from those gaming companies. While gaming websites can make public commitments to establishing healthy boundaries in order to maintain journalistic integrity, it has still resulted in controversial events, to the point even that prominent reviewers have been fired from a major site due to their negative review of a game from a publisher that was paying for advertising. That is just one sample, but let me ask a follow-up question to drive this point home: If I review a game that is decades old, do you really have to worry about my motivations? No, you do not, nor do you need to worry about many other controversial issues that can plague other forms of gaming.
6. We have fun.
This may seem like a circular argument, the fact that I enjoy the retro gaming community because the retro gaming community enjoys, but it is true. We participate, en masse, in annual celebrations like Review A Bad Game Day. We form inside jokes on silly podcasts. The whole point of a game is to have fun; ergo, by natural extensions, enjoyers of those games should have lots of fun. Sometimes, we get caught up in a race to take things too seriously, when we really just need to take a step back and remember the point of gaming to begin with.
7. We will be around for a long time.
In a literal sense, I hope that I live for several decades to come, at least. Secondarily, I hope that those years are still stuffed to the brim with playing old video games. But even if I fail to persist, I am completely confident that others will, even if someday we will think of console gaming in general as “retro,” and argue about the merits of the Wii U against the PS5. In all seriousness, though: People have been playing video games at least one generation behind the current for as long as there were multiple generations of games to begin with, and the practice will not end easily. One hundred years from now, someone might still be firing up a well-maintained arcade cabinet for a round of Galaga. I enjoy imagining that.
8. We have different backgrounds.
Diversity is valuable, and serves to more healthily hone the opinions expressed and acted upon within any culture. This is true in retro gaming, just as it is in society at large. In the retro gaming community, we can even purely see this in effect when examining why we started retro gaming. For some, the reason may just be that they never bothered keeping up with the latest systems. For others, it can be a true distaste for three-dimensional gameplay. For still others, reasoning can be rooted in factors financial or familial. Whatever the case may be, every retro gamer has a story, and that is part of the key to understanding the value of the community: It is not just the games that are worth getting to know, but the players, and all the wonderful personalities around.
9. We appreciate the beauty in sentimental items.
The above image represents the box art for the NES video game Werewolf: The Last Warrior. On the left is the Japanese version, with its brutal ferocity and sculpted abdomen, along with the amazing “WARWOLF” localization. On the right is the American version, depicting the titular werewolf actually tearing his way out of the physical cartridge itself. Would you ever see that sort of absurdity on a modern game, with a character ripping his way off of the game disk? Will we ever see those disks packed in cardboard boxes anymore? Retro gamers are home to a community in which a rare cartridge can sell at auction for over $20,000 in 2007; but, better yet and perhaps more importantly, many of us would never dare to part with some of our favorite items worth much less, because of how much sentimentality we attach to them. Ours is a hobby deeply rooted in nostalgia, which in itself is a beautiful concept.
10. We still have a lot of work to do.
“The greatest weariness comes from work not done.” – Eric Hoffer, philosopher. Here is a fun fact for you: On the GameFAQs website, there is only one walkthrough written for the NES iteration of The Terminator video game. In this walkthrough, the author states that the “Baseball” item is “utterly useless.” Yet, in my own experience, not only do I believe it is more likely to be a tennis ball, but if you toss the ball, it distracts the otherwise-deadly police canines in certain gameplay portions. Now, to the author’s credit, this use is briefly mentioned (although with the caveat “don’t bother”) as a possible use within the actual walkthrough, but not in the Weapons/Items section.
Am I splitting hairs here? Maybe, but my point is this: That is just one example of a knowledge gap that retro gaming has that, in theory, could be filled someday. While I have no delusions of there being a massive demand for 100%-precise information regarding a 20-year-old 8-bit game, I would still simply prefer there to be that information regardless. I would also like to know whether Millipede on NES has a killscreen. What I would really love is for homebrewers to come up with a better system of recording and distributing their programming knowledge to others, in order to reduce the entry barrier into what could be a growing, thriving segment of retro gaming. Again, these are just examples, and the examples of such knowledge gaps are countless. And I enjoy the fact that I can be a part of the ongoing communal effort to fill those gaps.
So, why do you enjoy the retro gaming community? Please leave a comment! Thank you.