Why do we Love Retro but Ignore History?


At the time of this writing I use my 2DS to play exactly two games: 1) “Shovel Knight”, a game that deliberately styles itself off early 90’s Super Nintendo games and 2) “Chrono Trigger”, a 1995 Super Nintendo game that was released for the DS in 2008. The PS4 recently saw the release of “Axiom Verge” witch tries to invoke memories of the original “Metroid”. While gamers love for Retro games is nothing new, it is some what saddening that for as much as we look to the past we ignore the lessons our history has taught us or purposefully try to out-date anything but the most recent games available.
This came to mind when I was talking to someone who has never seen E.T. I was reminded of the Atari 2600 game. Like most of you (i’m assuming) i’ve never played the game, and like most you (again, i’m assuming) I never really wanted to. Why would any one want to play it? It is widely considered to be one of if not the worst game ever made. It was so bad it single highhandedly crashed the video game market. But the more I thought about that fact, the more I wished I could get my hands on it. If this game had never been released Nintendo may very well have not put out the original Ness system, and the landscape of modern gaming may have been so radically different it would very well be unrecognizable to us today. In the same way that “Modern European History” starts with the French Revolution, E.T. May be the start of the “Modern Era” of gaming. And i’ve never played it. I know little about it or the rest of the games of the time.
Part of this, I guess, is unavoidable. The state of technology today is vastly different that it was in the late 80’s, early 90’s. Our creation tools are more powerful, our understanding of these tools are deeper that it ever been. It simply wouldn’t make much sense to make games with the same tech we did back in the 80’s and 90’s. But as we push ever forward, we’ve made it harder and harder to get a hold of a working copy of older games, games that can still inspire and bring enjoyment to a vast amount of people. For an example, in order to play a Ness game, I would need a working copy of the game, w working Ness and a TV I could actually connect the Ness too. And that’s just a console game. With the rise of Online multiplayer Arcades have become all but extinct, so what about the old cabinets that use to be the height of gaming tech? Sure, i’ve played “Pac-Man” and “Mortal Kombat” in my local laundromat, and a few rail-shooters at my local mini-amusement park in Downtown Spokane, but that is not even close to all the games that helped build our medium.
And as much as some would like to think emulators can be used to keep our history alive and attainable, most games are made with interface in mind. Playing an arcade game that used a track-ball with a mouse or controller simply isn’t the same experience. Imagine playing “Metal Gear Solid” on your iphone. Imagine playing “Zork” on the PS3, having to type all your commands with it’s crappy typing interface.
What hurts even more is how game companies have added too this nonsense. When both the PS3 and PS4 use bluray, why does the PS4 have no backward capability? Well, we already know the answer to that, don’t we? It’s so they can force us to buy the newest console and the newest games. They don’t care about the great games that have already been released. They don’t care about the history they’ve helped create. This shortsightedness means that the next generations of gamers may never be able to play modern classics like “Bioshock”, “Silent Hill 2”, “Shadow of the Colossus”…well, unless the company’s re-release them and sell them back too us. But what about when the re release becomes outdated? Sure a company wouldn’t re-release their re-release…Oh, hi there Resident Evil HD Remaster, the PS4 remaster of the Gamecude Remake of the PS1 classic, how could I forget about you?
Can you imagine what the world would be like if all forms of art acted like this? What if film makers today were unable to watch silent movies? What is writers today were unable to read Shakespeare? What if musicians couldn’t lessen to Queen or Black Sabbath or….other class acts not in the realm of rock music…So why is this kind of behavior acceptable for video games?
They say that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. When you look at the similarity between modern game company and those that cause the crash of the 80’s, it would seem that our insistence on ignoring our history may lead us to yet another video game crash. I don’t know about you, but I would very much like to avoid that.
I’ve never played E.T., or “Zork” or many Point and click adventure games or any text adventure games. I’ve never been to a real arcade and i’ve never played a dos game. This is a failure of mine, but not mine alone. Gamers should have access to the games that inspired the creation of our modern favorites. We should have access to the archives of games that made our medium what it is to day. We should be able to reference our history the way writers can reference Dostoevsky and the way film makers can reference Georges Melies.

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3 responses to “Why do we Love Retro but Ignore History?

  1. Look at all these old games of yonder, nostalgia trips unlike any other! Look at this new game that makes all the mistakes old games made! We only look back to dig up money making classics!

    Like

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