Retro Video Gaming: A Discussion

A friend of mine (and writer on this site) once asked me why don’t I review newer games.  I brushed the question off for quite some time but I thought now was a good time to really go into this; why DON’T I play or review new games?  It’s not that I have a problem with new games, in fact, I have been known to pick up a switch game every once in a while. However, it’s not what I spend most of my time on.

I am a YouTuber (super small as of now) and the best way to get views is to play the latest and greatest.  People are starving for content about Spiderman or Kingdom Hearts and yet, I am absent at the party. Instead I play old favourites like Lunar or Golden Sun.  The chances of someone looking up a lets play of Lunar for the Sega CD is pretty rare and if they do, they will likely find dozens of channels that have already played through it.  

I gotta be honest, I’ve written the next few paragraphs three times and I still can’t really figure out why it is that I don’t play new games.  I recently put 40+ hours into a more modern game like Persona 4 for the PS Vita but that’s a game that came out years ago. If I want to be successful, I need to get hip with the times and play what everyone else is playing.  

I just realized that it’s not just video games that I do this with.  As I am writing this, I am listening to Gordon Lightfoot’s greatest hits full of songs that came out decades ago.  I’ve listened to this album probably a hundred times (This isn’t an exaggeration, I really love Gordon Lightfoot) and yet, I go to this album versus something new from a band like The Mountain Goats.  Once again, like video games, I do listen to new albums here and there. I recently picked up some albums by Mega Ran and I’ve been loving it. When I want to relax or kick my feet up on a road trip it’s albums like Led Zeppelin or Tom Petty that gets played first.  

The one reason I keep coming back to is comfort.  Old video games and old albums are like a broken in sweater.  They are comforting and you know exactly what you’re getting into.  A new album or video game could turn out to be awful and now you’ve wasted time and money on something you didn’t enjoy.  I know what to expect when I pick up Golden Sun. It’s a game I know I love and will enjoy playing.

That’s not entirely it though.  I do pick up games I haven’t played before, but they are still games that most would consider “old school”.  Just recently I am playing Final Fantasy IX for the first time and im having a blast. Why, though, do I enjoy Final Fantasy IX and not XV?  You could say nostalgia and you’d probably be right, but I don’t think that’s entirely the reason. Yes, old school games carry this weight of better times but nostalgia specifically looks at something you’ve enjoyed in the past and goes back to so you can feel the same feelings over again.  I’ve never played Final Fantasy IX so there isn’t a connection to it from my youth.

Is it that old school video games are better?  Not at all! There are so many great games coming out that is hard to pick what to play.  A fairly modern game that I’ve put tons of hours into is Civilization 6. In fact, a new expansion is coming out in a few weeks and I am hyped about it.  That being said, its an exception to the rule I have and not the rule itself.

Another reason I think I gravitate to old school games is the charm they have.  Games today are so polished and so realistic that you can forget you’re playing a video game.  Now I haven’t played it, but when watching videos of the new Spiderman I am stunned by how great it looks!  It’s not just looks that have advanced over the years; controls of modern video games have gotten better too.  An interesting example is from the Pokemon games. For over a decade you could only walk in four directions. Now though, on games like Pokemon X or Pokemon Sun, you can walk in any direction.  It’s a small thing but it makes the gaming experience so much more enjoyable.

Something I just thought about!  My nephew has been coming over recently to hang out with me and my wife and one of the things we love to do is play video games together.  In fact on my Youtube channel there are a few videos of games we played together (check it out, he’s adorable!). Now, something I’ve tried to do while he is over is get him to play some of the retro games I love.  I haven’t been forcing him to play old RPGs (I’ll be honest, I doubt he has the attention span for those yet) but I have tried other games like Pocky and Rocky. Some of them he loves and some of them he gets tired of quickly.  This tells me though that it’s not just about nostalgia. He has no connection to the games and is definitely born past the era they were made but he still enjoys them. This tells me there’s gotta be something about the games beyond enjoying them when you were a kid.  

Maybe it’s the simplicity of the games.  Many games nowadays are complex and have a steep learning curve (I’m looking at you Persona!) but because games from the past had technological constraints, they had to be simple.  No matter how long its been, I can pick up Gradius for an hour or two and play it. I don’t need to relearn the controls or figure out where I left off in the story; it’s a game about a ship shooting other ships.  

As always there is an exception to the rule.  There are games from eras gone by that are complex and story driven.  One that comes to mind is Fire Emblem of Shining Force. That said, they are still easier to hop back into than a game like Kingdom Hearts.

So, here’s what we’ve covered so far:  New games are great but I still prefer to pop in something from the early 2000s or earlier.  When we try to analyze why I love older games, we get nowhere. What’s the point of this article then?  I think what I am trying to say here is that it’s okay to love new games and it’s okay to love old games.  Either one is an awesome experience and worth getting into. I might not know why I enjoy older games but I am going to keep playing them and having a great time doing so.


So what about you?  Do you love new games or older games and why is it you love them?