Being a gaming writer, I’m a lover of all games old and new. This is normally with little or no bias to any section of it, as it has all helped to get us to where we are. The thing is though; age doesn’t help to keep things balanced. If I become the gamer rather than the writer, I have to say I much prefer the older days and how they were much better than our current generation of titles and gaming in general. In this feature I want to go over the 10 most important reasons, to me, why old school is far better than present day. So without further ado, here we go:
1. The machines always sounded better - Let’s be honest, the Playstation name has been going on for what seems like an eternity and Xbox just sounds a bit drab (don’t even get me started on Wii). Back in my day it was truly beautiful when a new computer or console arrived because they had names to match the passion. The Amiga, the ST and even the Spectrum all had killer names and sounded funky. The consoles were the same and I really wish we’d had the Genesis instead of the Mega Drive. The major point here is that the machine names matched the fun that they could produce.
2. Gameplay over graphics - In this day and age, as much as some games are good at balancing both, the graphics can be so pretty and distracting that they can hide some pretty obnoxious levels of gameplay, in the sense that there isn’t any. Back in the days of pixels and 64 colours there was no such luxury. It had to be exciting and playable and allow the player’s imagination to tag along, giving us some memorable titles. Paradroid was nothing but pool balls with laser guns running along a barren spaceship. Even though this was the case, the way it played was truly remarkable and very addictive.
3. Game character names - Let’s be honest, how many game characters are you seriously going to remember in a decade or two from the current generation of mascots and reprobates we have at the minute? Master Chief sounds like someone mishearing you when taping a culinary programme off the telly and Sackboy just sounds like something you’d get on Television X. In my day (lifted directly from any old Yorkshire bread advert) it was always a joy to see what new warriors, aliens or pipe jumping plumbers would poke their heads out. Mario and Sonic are almost without saying. Solid Snake started off on the NES, Pac Man and many more were old pixelated arcade games and in my opinion these guys just sounded cooler.
4. Bedroom Coders – These days computer games are a horrendously big business and every title costs a hell of a lot of money. In the mid 1980’s this idea was on the other end of the spectrum (pun was totally intended). The Oliver Twins created Dizzy in their bedroom and judging by the fact they ended up being Codemasters’ golden boys and then the co-founders of Blitz Games just shows the fact it didn’t do them any harm. A lot of our big gurus and icons would have started from these humble beginnings, as well as many of them getting an almost God-like status due to the hours put in so far. That simply doesn’t happen too often these days, which is a shame, but back then it was all the time.
5. The noises - I can’t believe I’m saying this one to be honest, but in a way there is logic in my madness. To me gaming has become a slightly bland scene outside of the epic scores that the big budgets are spent on. We never had that back in the 8 or 16 bit era (well, TECHNICALLY we had sampling in the latter, but that just didn’t cut it) as it was only the sound chips we could rely on. The fact that the SID chip is held in such high regard, as well as being used by pop/rock/dance groups (such as Pendulum) shows just how true this is.
6. Offline Gaming – In a day when everyone is online and most games are made or orientated around the internet, we start to see people sitting around their couches or TV’s in bedrooms become less and less common. Whether or not this is to do with the fact we’re all a bit on the old side and this is just how it was back in our day remains to be seen, but it still holds true for a lot of us. On a personal note, I remember two specific examples of having a great time with a group of pals stuck round a small portable TV (with fastext) Goldeneye was one of them, slapping around some, as we called them “rather meaty cougar magnums” on the multiplayer maps. Much hilarity soon followed, as I’m sure a vast majority of you will also account for. The other instance that sticks in my mind is with Worms, just not in a Dumb & Dumber way. Every Friday night for about a year and a half I’d head round to a mate’s house and we’d just sit round the goggle box playing Worms on the Playstation. Now, as much as it is slight sacrilege not going on about the Amiga version, the PSX one was an easier one to use. I know online gaming offers something slightly similar, but there is a lot to be said, even to this day, for getting one up on your pal when he’s in the same room. That is enough reason to make this one important.
7. Game Prices – Back in the 80’s and a small part of the 90’s the amount we paid for cassettes and discs was minimal. About £2.99 was the done thing for a budget release and about a tenner for something a little more full price. Nowadays it’s about £40+ for a mainstream title and £20 gets you the older stuff re-released. The only stuff that can rival old school prices are apps, minis and indie games, but the downside to these is the fact that there is a horrendous amount of drivel mixed in with the occasional gem. In retro times the lower price was for decent re-releases and some nice little Mastertronic tapes, which was never bad.
8. Cover Mounted Goodness – You MUST know what this one is about. Back in the day when magazines were worthwhile, we would always see cover mounted items to keep us all occupied. Whether it was blue Amiga and ST disks or the 8-bit tapes, we were spoilt for choice between Zzap, Crash, Amiga Power, The One and many others. Demos may well have been the main staple of these plastic mounts, but we’d also receive the occasional parody of a major game or even a full game itself. Things like Paradroid and Uridium made their way to copies of Zzap near the end of its life, but all we get now are videos and demos that you can download off the net anyway, so I’d deem the discs we get now a bit pointless. 9. Amusement Arcades – You just don’t get any of THESE anymore either. Most of the games we got converted to home systems came from the arcades. I could list a few of them, but we’d be here for most of the night. The best way for me to prove this point is by taking you back to the days of the Xbox and PS2 when we saw a lot of those said amusement companies releasing anthology packs, which still happens on a rare occasion, but was more prominent then. These days it seems to be a role reversal with some games reaching theme parks and bowling alleys from people’s home consoles. There was also the great sense of amazement when a new game came out in the arcades, with loads of people grouping round to put their money in.
10. PIXELS!!! – This is maybe more of a childish reason, but I’m very happy to put it in. One of the most exciting, fun and addictive games I played recently was Super Meat Boy and that was nothing but the humble pixel and a load of colour, just put together in such a great way. I know graphics nowadays are just mind blowing, but the pixel just has more of an affection for us older people and there is more artistry and cleverness getting the best out of the humble coloured square than all this 3D, vector based mumbo jumbo. Is it my own opinion? Who knows, but I still believe there is some sense in there.
Looking back on what is above, I feel there is a lot to be said about retro gaming, but it never does really get said enough. Perhaps things just aren’t as great looking back as they used to be; they certainly aren’t as vocal, but we must never forget just what got us here. It was never just the games or the coders or even the machines. We have to remember one of the most vital parts of retro gaming….us. We were there when the machines came out, as well as the cartridges, discs, tapes and everything else. From Game Gears to Gears of War 3, we are the vital ingredient that keeps things going. Let us know what you think by logging on and commenting on the site.
Agree with all those points except maybe number 7. A 48k ZX Spectrum cost £175 in 1982, in todays market that equates to around £500! Megadrive games would sell regularly at £40 in the early '90's, that's the equivalent of around £75 today. I myself paid £400 for a Sega Saturn on release (must've been mad). I'd never pay that now so I wouldn't necessarily say gaming was cheaper back in the day. Was probably more fun though!