As the first generation of video gamers – those of us that were playing video games in our youth during the 70’s – grow older and we suddenly realize our kids are doing the same; we start to get nostalgic for the “good old days” of our youth.
In a fast paced world where games are churned out incomplete, buggy, or worse yet with questionable gameplay, we start longing to relive the simpler, video game experiences of our youth. Perhaps we’re eager to now start showing our growing children, who likely cut their teeth on seventh generation consoles (Xbox360, PS3) and are perhaps even gaining experience with Next Gen consoles like the Xbox One or PS4, what video gaming was really like “back in the day”.
Clearly, nostalgia is fueling retro gaming at a high-level. Twenty or even thirty year old console cartridges – labels fading, plastic scratched and cracked, manuals, boxes, and even the original consoles to play them on long missing – were frequently targeted for the garbage or the yard sale table by our parents as we moved on with growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. Subsequently, with many a cartridge or console long off store shelves and into the landfills of the world, the demand for them by the nostalgia crowd has gone up – WAY up in some cases and so too has their collectability.
It’s that collectability that’s driving the prices of some of these dusty old relics up OVER their original store prices. Video Game stores, market vendors, boot sales, street hawkers, and online collector groups have all started cashing in on the demand as they came to realize that many of us nostalgia-gamers are now firmly ensconced in high-paying careers and earning enough disposable income to plunk down good cash on dusty old consoles and boxes of loose cartridges bought off the back of a truck at a flea market to stuff in our dens and man-caves. In short - we’ve made collecting these remembrances of our youth - our hobby and who ever said a hobby was cheap? Just ask any antique car collector.
Not everyone jumping on the retro gaming bandwagon is some nostalgia-obsessed, middle-aged parent digging through boot sale bargain bins or obscure online store pages though - a whole new generation of hip kids and hipster young adults alike are being introduced to re-releases of older titles as well as new games being developed by smaller indie studios with a retro style. The Nintendo Wii and Wii U and their Virtual Console has brought many a long forgotten video game classic back for younger gamers to enjoy – basically kicking off the current craze back around 2005. Other big current console developers such as Sony and Microsoft have followed Nintendo’s lead and now downloadable retro games can be found on their consoles as well. Thanks to advances in electronics and software technology, many small hand-held video game devices, miniature TV-top consoles the size of a wallet, and even our mobile phones are now capable of emulating old console and computer games with aplomb.
The meteoric rise of the indie game scene, where small developers found themselves unconstrained by large publishers and free to express creativity and cater to the niche gamer, has helped to expose a whole new generation of gamers to retro styled gaming. Perhaps many of these indie developers are first generation gamers recapturing their youth or maybe they’re just trying to remind people how awesome pixel graphics can be when built on top of newer, more complicated game play technology underneath the hood. Games like Fez, Spelunky, Minecraft, and many, MANY more have all made the conscious decision to go with a pixelated, retro video game look, as opposed to the higher polygon counts and graphic fidelity the newer generation games are noted for.
The Indie game scene has had a HUGE impact on bringing back an appreciation for traditional-styled game graphics. Finally, with the development of the internet and it’s gigantic social media outlets, particularly YouTube and Facebook, retro gamers have not only found a social platform to discuss their passion for retro gaming with other like-minded people, but a way to engage a whole new audience of enthusiasts. Many online retro game collecting shows are starting to rival the production values of mainstream TV. I think that retro gaming is more than a fad - every generation longs for the things of their childhood be it video games or hula hoops.
You’d have to go back to a generation that never had video games to find people not yearning for the ones they played as a kid. Because of that, as the younger generation of gamers gets older and starts putting us first gen gamers out to pasture, they’ll get that nostalgia bug and seek out the long forgotten DVD’s and downloads of their youth and so the story continues…
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