The Holidays are for Retro Gaming

Somehow it is once again the holiday season. You look away for a moment and suddenly it’s that time of year to gather around with the people you love – or at least those you tolerate – and share meals that are too large, often while wearing festive clothing that rapidly becomes too small.

If there’s a single word that can sum up this time of year it’s probably panic…but if we were to go for something more heartwarming, it might be tradition; things that we do because we used to do them and our family used to do them before us. Tradition takes on all shapes and sizes, sometimes it’s eating a certain type of bird, sometimes it’s exchanging presents, and sometimes it’s lighting barrels of tar on fire and carrying them on our backs.

Tar Barrels Intermediate 2009
What can I tell you? Devon is a weird place

For Gamers, and many others in the Geek family, tradition only really means one thing: retro-gaming.

Whether it’s original old-school titles, the latest remastered classic or a new game with classic elements, it seems that lately our high-tech medium spends alot of time looking backwards.

It isn’t hard to see this trend in gaming, for Xbox One owners it’s as easy as flicking over to ‘Games with Gold’ and picking up a free copy of Volgarr the Viking, an unashamedly retro brawler that takes many of its cues from arcade legend Golden Axe.

At the same time, the PC side is well represented with a Sega themed Humble Bundle and Sony has made much of its plans to release much of their back catalog for worldwide consumption.

Heck, one guy even made an entire old-school arcade you can explore using an Oculus Rift. That’s right, you can now play retro games on the most cutting edge gaming device we have.

At least in Virtual Reality, the Arcades are still open
At least in Virtual Reality, the Arcades are still open

So what’s causing this rise of the retro? Well, two things; one of them is pretty awesome and the other is…well, we’ll get onto that.

To get to the awesome, I need to start with something scary: the average age of a gamer is now 31.

Now, aside from being ever so slightly frightening, this also means alot of gamers grew up in the late 80s and early 90s and got their introduction to gaming from the classics now being emulated, copied or rebooted. So it comes as no shock that they want to revisit them now that they’re older and don’t have to beg mom and dad for an advance on their allowance.

Not only does this group create demand, but thanks to handy things like Kickstarter, Patreon, and Indie-friendly marketplaces like Steam, they now have the ability to get their desires made into reality.

It’s a powerful combo and it’s brought us some great games like Braid, Risk of Rain and Nuclear Throne alongside countless others.

Rogue-like has never been such a compliment.

Not that Rogue
Not that Rogue

So what’s that other thing? Well, while the fond memories of 30-something fans drive the trend from the bottom end, there’s a different kind of animal waiting at the top.

The big publishers have taken note, with big ticket ‘remasters’ like the recent Master Chief Collection and Resident Evil HD hitting the shelves in 2014. For alot of people, these releases are a good thing and it’s easy to see why. After all, the games industry is still dominated by creators who, for the most part, are pretty entrenched right beside their target audience. Besides, some may argue, the examples above are too recent to really be considered retro in the first place.

Both of those points are accurate but still, it’s a worrying precedent. For while the creators may still be our fellow geeks, the people above them usually aren’t. The push for these releases don’t come from some institutional longing for simpler times but, as ever, from the pursuit of the mighty dollar.

Studio heads know that nostalgia sells, and as long as it does, the big companies will keep raiding their back catalogs for titles they can exploit to feed the market.

Want to see this writ large? Look at the state of modern Hollywood. The endless rush for Nostalgia and Name-Recognition is what left us with four freaking Transformers movies. It even meant someone thought Battleship: The Movie was a worthwhile investment.

This just screams alien invasion
This just screams alien invasion

Just for fun, take this corporate trend to its extreme. Does anyone want to see the HD remake of Custer’s Last Stand? How about ET: The Game? It sounds crazy, then again, so did the Battleship movie.

Still, that doomsday isn’t here just yet so maybe it’s best to focus on the positives. Maybe get reacquainted with one of the great titles currently out there. Hey, the Humble Bundle even goes to a good cause.


“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”

Tags : HolidaysRetro Gaming
John Fletcher

The author John Fletcher

John Fletcher was born in Connectiticut, raised in Philadelphia and then became a man in England. He now lives in Plymouth which sometimes reminds him why his forefathers left there in the first place. Apart from his boring grown up job, John is a gamer, writer and general geek who can sometimes be found dressed as a Viking and swinging axes at other men…luckily most of them are doing the same to him.