As bleak as it may look at times, the prospect of the future of gaming excites me. I get the warm and tinglies in the pit of my stomach when I see our pastime evolving from something to do in-between bowling matches or in the lobby of movie theaters to an entertainment medium where new releases are anticipated as hotly as their cinematic kin. So when I hear so-called gaming enthusiasts talking about things like “the importance of pong” and how relevant 8-Bit still is, the warm, tingling sensation moves substantially lower and I have to apply an ointment for a while.
Sure, we all have experiences with games that make us feel nostalgic. I had a buddy in elementary school that I really only connected with via gaming. We’d hang out at each other’s houses or in school, but we were always either playing games, or talking about games. One game in particular, Freedom Fighters for the Playstation 2, gave us hours of fun. The ability to take control of and manipulate AI allies while hunting each other through strategically interesting maps made the game stand apart from anything else we were playing at that time.
Years later, a college friend would overhear me reminiscing about that game and shock me with the news that he owned it, had it present on campus, and could make it available for play with himself and his brother if I so desired it. What I quickly learned was that I only truly had the desire to recapture that experience of playing a fun and strategically demanding game with a good friend. As for the experience itself? We kept it pretty true to form for what I was used to in the Freedom Fighters age. To preserve historical accuracy we played with half functional controllers on a single screen so tiny we had to sit close enough to smell each other’s sweat. And it wasn’t fun. Not even for a moment.
I guess that’s the thing about retrogaming that I just can’t wrap my head around. Those experiences are ones I’ll settle for now, sure, if I have to. I mean crowding around an inadequate screen and cursing when you can’t pick enemies out from scenery is still gaming. It’s still better than lighting yourself on fire. But if there’s a 360 with Halo or CoD or even Too Human in the room I’ll take it, for God’s sake.
I like to see gaming pushed to its conceivable boundaries, and I think that’s what upsets me most about retro as a movement. The truly visceral moments that have stuck with me when I consider gaming are ones like turning on Final Fantasy X and hearing game characters talk to me for the first time, or stepping right through the divide between reality and fantasy and getting lost in Skyrim. The fact that a large faction of us gamers seem to think we haven’t yet plumbed the depths of the conversations that can be gleaned from looking at games like Ocarina of Time or Goldeneye or even chuffing Pong is just something I will always find frustrating.
So what’s the take-away here? What’s the moral of the story? I guess I should backpedal and say I’m certainly not criticizing anyone who likes to play old games. I hate playing old games, for the most part, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. If I’m coming out as “against” anything here, it’s against “retro” as a movement; the continued conversation about games that have made their contributions, about which no further discussion is necessary. I look forward to a day when we can keep our shrines to those fine games in our memories, keeping our thoughts focused on building bigger and better experiences in the future.
Thanks for reading and until next time, have fun!