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Why the future of gaming has room for the old [Jan. 11th, 2010|07:02 pm]
I like old things. Not all old things. I don't really think that everything was better in the Victorian era, for instance. And even if I did, I wasn't even alive back then, having come into the world in 1977 so I wouldn't have a clue what I was talking about. Still, we all have our memories and being born in the late 1970s put me in a great and privileged position: for it meant I was able to witness the growth of videogaming from the very beginning.

Actually, that's a lie. The first time I ever saw a game being played was Chuckie Egg at some point in the early 1980s when videogaming was already on its feet and had even suffered a crash. And if you're asking me to put a precise date on my meeting with Egg, you have to remember that one so young had other important matters to contend with. Like whether he wanted Snake Mountain or Castle Greyskull for Christmas (and luckily got both, so hooray).

The thing is, back in the days when we took pleasure in the rotary dials of our colourful British Telecom issued phones and considered a shower something that happened in the playground while we stayed indoors with crayons, I never even got a chance to play that game.

Other, more cooler kids, monopolised that BBC computer and left the rest of us to play outside and dare each other to touch the electrified fence which prevented an invasion of cows from the nearby farm. Poor Jimmy, we loved him so.

It was in the mid-1980s that I finally persuaded a friend at lunchtime that there was indeed a ghost in the PE store cupboard and he really had to go and check it out. That got him off the BBC for long enough for me to start playing a few games myself and, it took around 10 minutes to become hooked.

In 1989, after years of camping in friend' homes eating free jam butties and enjoying such cutting edge delights as Jet Set Willy and Jetpac on the Spectrum, I persuaded my parents to buy me an Amstrad CPC. You know, just to be different.

And from that point on - after convincing said parents that, yes, it really was me given the amount of time I had spent before a screen - I became a regular at Boots. Not because I was developing a rather unhealthy lifestyle from playing too many games but because it was one of the few outlets in Manchester to actually sell titles for the CPC.

There were other options available to me. Magazines at the time used to wax lyrical about how there were so many retailers in France with an abundance of Amstrad games. But I figured, even at such a young age, that the journey couldn't practically be done within a day and that the time spent figuring a route was better employed delivering newspapers. As part of the game, Paperboy, of course.

As I grew older, I progressed to the PlayStation and a plethora of consoles deemed so powerful it was once said Saddam Hussein could have used them to send weapons of mass destruction to Uranus when we all know he'd have much rather have sat down with PaRappa the Rapper.

Yet there was always that nagging feeling that I hadn't played enough. No child has the cash to snap up every game ever made, even at £1.99 a tape (less so today(. But every adult has the ability to install an emulator and download lots of retro games. And over the past few years, old skool gaming has been in vogue. Stinky, graphically poor titles are everywhere and I love them. I can play them on my iPhone, on my Wii, and on my PC (thanks gog.com). I can also write about them in the rather excellent Retro Gamer magazine (buy a copy now, look at those screenshots, phwoar yeah).

So imagine my excitement, if you have the inclination, when hearing that Microsoft is launching "Game Room" for the Xbox 360 and PC in the Spring. It will include games like Centipede and Asteroids Deluxe in their original cabinets and you can show your friends how good you are at some of the most challenging games ever made.

Relive the glory days of the classic arcade, it says. Or, like many from the 1980s, catch some titles for the very first time because that annoying kid just wouldn't let you play. It's like watching re-runs of old black and white movies without the lengthy pauses in between dialogue.

But it's even better. For back in the day, pauses between sounds were filled with noise. Usually swearing when the tape suddenly stopped working. Now there are no tapes, just pure enjoyment.

As I say, I do like old things. But I like them even better when they're played on new things. Hooray to progress.

[User Picture]From: goldenmug
2010-01-13 09:48 am (UTC)

Games for the old

I remember when computer games meant text adventures: "Drink water" "Drop matches", and being told about a pub where they had a games machine which could play a sort of ping pong - with itself!

But the first computer game that ever really grabbed me was Elite, and to this day I hanker after another blast at that. I did get a version of the original game that was supposed to work on DOS, but I never got very far and the docking routine that once I mastered had gone. Now I want a version of Elite where everything is slowed down, so you don't need the reflexes, except for the very boring bits getting from the edge of the star system to the space station. If anyone has a link to a suitable version of Elite that would be grand.

This is actually the big problem with so many games, when you're old, somehow they all seem to depend on reflexes (except Civ and Sims) and I haven't got them any more. Bring back turn-based combat!

Well, there's always Civ (the original, played in the Windows version) still keeps me amused for hours.

I refuse to use the word "sad".
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[User Picture]From: alloutofink
2010-01-15 02:31 pm (UTC)
I grew up playing Chuckie Egg and Centipede. Well, I grew up watching my mum play Centipede for hours and hours on my Atari ST while I was supposed to be fast asleep. This is the same parent who "doesn't understand" the appeal of MMOs and can barely tackle the same New Zealand Story game on her Nintendo DS that she finished before I did in 1994! Sometimes it's a bit offputting playing an older game on new hardware, since you have to re-learn how to do basic things like jumping.

I think the best thing about that time in gaming was the freedom of developers and amateurs to make innovative games for (comparatively) nothing, like New Zealand Story and Llamatron. Nowadays it seems a game can't make it (with a few rare exceptions) unless it has millions of pounds' worth of FMV, voice acting, and a celeb endorsement.

Despite being an MMO player, I still love turn-based games. I think the appeal there is that the "reflexes" are more cerebral, like playing a game of chess versus a game of tennis. At least that's my excuse, though it doesn't help me much when barbarians invade my capital city in Civ 4 because I was too busy trying to destroy the Khmer empire.

One of the games I really miss was called Lords of Magic. It was basically a proto-Civ with armies of flying elves and necromancers instead of axemen and tanks. The best part was that you had the option to either engage in turn-based combat, or skip it entirely, and have the computer decide the outcome based on the combat odds. I wish games like that would be updated and expanded for today's PCs!
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