If you have never heard of the term “retrogaming” don’t be surprised. While game hobbyists and collectors have been around since the beginning of the industry the idea of someone who focuses primarily on older, discontinued consoles as opposed to the latest releases is fairly recent. Simply put “retrogaming, also known as classic gaming and old-school gaming, is the hobby of playing and collecting older computer, video, and arcade games” (Wikipedia).
Pretty straightforward right? But why do people do this? Why focus on outdated hardware and software instead of the latest generation of offerings? Well, I can tell you what I get out of the hobby and you can be the judge.
Part of the appeal of retrogaming to me is an attempt to recapture my youth. I won’t deny it. “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid.” But still, there is some validity to what I am saying. A lot of the really cool things that cam out in the 1980’s didn’t always find their way into our household. So I kind of missed out on a number of these new toys such as video games when they were still sparkling and brand new. Now that I am a big kid with my own money to spend, I can try to recapture some of what I might have missed and share that joy with my kids.
While recapturing my youth might be part of why I enjoy retrogaming, it is by no means all of it. Another major factor is an almost lost genre here in the US, the vertical/horizontal/rails shooters. And no, not a FPS. I am not talking about Halo, Quake, or Doom here. Games like R-Type, Darius, Raiden, and Panzer Dragoon defined a genre that was built for quarter-munching arcades. Shooters are my first love and the classics are hard to top. Modern consoles may have HD remakes or the new generation of releases, but if you want the creme of the crop, the true soul of the genre then you have to go old school and dust off your Genesis or Saturn.
Ok, shooters are great, but what about all of the new shiny, high definition awesomeness that is modern gaming? Well, there is nothing wrong with that and trust me I truly do enjoy games like Dragon Age and Call of Duty. But sometimes I feel like plugging a game in and just getting into the thick of things fast and that is just not really possible with modern games. When I have to sit through a 60+ second load to get to the main menu then another load to get to the save game screen and finally another load to get to the game itself, I am not going to pick this up just for a quick play. Retro games tend to be made to be played and put down quickly. Instant gratification at its finest. And trust me, with a family, job, and all of the other daily demans of life, time is a precious thing. If I can pickup a game, get 15-20 minutes of fun gameplay out of it and then move on, I will do that first.
So I have the nostalgia of retrogaming, the convenience of pickup games, and the plethora of classics in the shooter genre, what more could there be to this hobby? Well, for me the greatest motivating factor is community that surrounds the hobby. From websites dedicated to single consoles or console families (Neo-Geo.com, PCEngineFX) to sites and forums for the hobby as a whole (Racketboy), there is an incredibly active community driving the retrogaming forward. YouTube channels dedicated to the hobby are springing up all of the time including my own show, The Alfred Effect.
So as you can see, I’ve got my reasons for pursuing and enjoying this hobby. If you are into retrogaming what draws you to it? If not, then maybe you will consider it. Retrogaming is not for everyone, that is certain. But I feel it is definitely worth checking out.