Retro gaming: My home within my home
By Greg Betancourt Jr. (@SilverGreg78)
What is it that makes retro video games so special to us? Is it that the challenge of completing any game felt more satisfying? Higher quality gameplay? Nostalgia? Whatever the reason, many people have something special that connects them to retro games. Greg Betancourt Jr. discusses why retro games are so amazing.
I’m a geek. I’ve always been a geek. I will always be a geek. Sci-fi and medieval fantasy movies, shows and books, anime, comics, convention life, cosplay, you name it, and I love it. However, my first love will always be gaming, video gaming in particular. Video games are the ultimate amalgam of creativity. Storytelling, artwork, design, puzzle making, computer programming, even down to marketing and advertising, all go into the video games that move us. But inside all of the love I hold for video games, retro games, which is for me to say the games from the 16-bit era and prior, are the pinnacle of my passion. They affect me in a way that no other generation of games has ever, or will ever, affect me.
When someone asks me how long I’ve been a gamer, my response is that I’ve been a gamer since classic games were new games. When I was about 4, I remember my father taking me with him when he would hang out with his friends, and I loved it, because his friend had an Atari 2600, and that was my babysitter. One day, we got one at home, and I could always be found sitting at a small table in our dining room with the system, a 13 inch tv, a controller in my hand, and a juice box by my side. Games like Adventure, Defender, Surround, and Kaboom were simple to play and tough to master, which is what made them so accessible. In fact, while the graphics are way more advanced, many of the most popular mobile games ever to date have that same formula. Playing those games, sharing them with the other kids around, and getting to share in their games (the kids across the street had an Odyssey) are treasured memories for me, and retro gaming is no different than a photo album. Once in a while, I plug up a 2600 or the Intellivision, and I look back and smile and what used to be.
While I had many great times tied to retro games, the way we played those games is just as large a part of the love I have for them. When the NES, Sega Master System, and Turbo Grafx were new, there was no internet. There was no Youtube to watch playthroughs, no forum pages to ask the world about strategies. When you needed to solve a puzzle, you figured it out, or you asked a friend for help. I remember being asked for tips from people in school who I didn’t even know, but they heard I had beaten that game, so they needed to know how. Even when you did find out what to do or how to do it, actually doing it didn’t get easy, just easier. Usually in lists of hardest games ever, retro games take the top spots (*cough* Battletoads) because the levels were unforgiving, the tactics required practice, and the chances were limited, unless you knew the right codes. All this added up to challenges that were fun to attempt and rewarding to overcome. We’ve lost a lot of that in modern gaming. With so much information at our fingertips, frustration can easily lead to the internet for answers, and puzzles and games which would have taken weeks take only days, reducing the reward of victory.
Old school games offered so much, but I think my favorite aspect is rooted in the idea of escaping real life. Many of the most popular games of today are smothered in realism. Lifelike locales, true to life physics, and characters custom tailored to be identifiable as people have become the norm, and while it has its place, I will always prefer whimsical worlds, crazy jumping and speed boost running, and animals carrying swords while wearing jetpacks. That kind of creativity isn’t as common as it was in the old days of gaming, and when we do see it today, it’s rarely as celebrated as back then. A squirrel probably won’t top any best seller lists anymore, no matter how brash and violent he may be. There was an appreciated charm to the worlds I grew up battling through, and that charm always puts a smile on my face. The world we live in can be hard on us at times, and while it’s important to navigate it and let it make us stronger people, sometimes it’s nice to get out of it and experience a place where all it takes to win is to run through a castle and drop a huge, spiked turtle-like bad guy into some lava to save what you hope is the right princess.
Retro games are a focal point in my world of geekiness. The nostalgia they offer, the challenge they promise, and the escape they provide are all valuable aspects of their existence. Any single one of these could be enough to make someone like the things they like, whether it’s video games, sports, travelling, and so on. Having all three is what makes you love that thing. I very much enjoy video games, but I love retro gaming. It is a gateway to everything I love about being a geek, and no matter how much sci-fi I watch, how many comics I read, or conventions I go to, nothing will ever match the feeling I get when I have an old school joystick or controller in my hand.
Hey there everybody! Ever since I was a kid, I've been a huge geek and totally proud of it. Movies, TV shows, comics, and anything else geeky and nerdy and amazing, but gaming is and will always be my first love. I've loved classic games ever since classic games were new games, and I love sharing them with others, whether it's in a shop, at a convention, or online through social media or YouTube. It's a passion that has given me years of enjoyment, and hopefully, many more to come. Let it do the same for you, too. Remember, geeky and proud!