Nostalgia Is Always in Style: The UnReturn of Pixel Gaming
by Matt Weir
Gaming is a constantly changing, and evolving beast. You can be an early adopter, and grab it by the horns, but at times it’s sometimes better to watch from the sidelines, and wait for the dust to settle. However, in many ways it also stays the same, with many of the stories, game, and player progression regurgitated from the past.
For the most part everyone remembers the first game they played, and the sheer joy, and excitement of first playing a digital game. This feeling of unadulterated bliss is what seasoned gamers crave for every time they load up a fresh new game – in many instances are left high, and dry. As a result many gamers look back, and return to the good old days, replaying through the classics, and reliving the glory days where their only concerns were finishing their homework, and what was for dinner.
In many ways, more so now than ever people are beginning to realize, become self-aware, of this shift to the old days of gaming, with new fans, and old fans alike “rediscovery,” the origins of what gaming is today. Before I get into it I just want to preface that what I as a millennial would deem as a classic only extends back to the days of the NES and Dreamcast, apologies to all the old fogies out there.
Resurgence of Retro Games
Original Game Fans
Many who grew up playing on the NES or SNES are finding themselves “rediscovering” their old consoles – either finding them up in grandma’s attic or at obscure yard sales. This can lead to a number of potential outcomes, albeit none of them momentously life altering:
1. The game is good, just not as good as I remember.
2. The game just isn't the same, it plays fine but it just doesn't provide any of those childhood feels you were looking for.
3. The game has failed to stand the test of time. You are currently using it as a drink coaster.
Regardless of which outcome occured for you, at the very least dusting off the old console, and blowing on those old cartridges to get them to work was satisfying enough.
New Wave Fans
Many newer and younger fans of games are attempting to play and enjoy games, which were once considered revolutionary, but are now deemed as “classics”. These would be the tail end group of millenials, looking to differentiate themselves, and deviate from the norm…sigh hipsters. While I guess I would fall under this subset of people, and do enjoy these games, I am unaware, nor willing to comment on whether or not these games are able to provide younger folks enjoyment or just sheer frustration from the somewhat archaic game mechanics. I wouldn’t be surprised to find these people (and me) crawling back to our 8th generation consoles, and 60fps artistic “masterpieces” with relative haste.
However for true diehards, and impassioned fans that love particular franchises such as Legend of Zelda or Mario, it provides a chance to see the full evolution, and genesis of such beloved franchises.
Disenfranchised by the Current Game Offerings
Lets not beat around the bush, the major game studios pump out titles from a popular franchise cyclically – many of which are watered down, starving for a truly immersive story, and lacking any iota of creativity. Many games adopt the same formula that made them once great, and fail to push the envelop. It's No wonder people are getting tired of playing the same games over and over again! This has lend to fans exploring what was once great, replaying what was once played, avoiding the modern day trap of in game purchases, loot boxes, and DLCs. We live in an age where franchises are “designed” to be trilogies, and games are considered complete, despite the fact that they require three payable DLCS.
There is also the potential that juggernauts such as Sony and Nintendo have pushe the envelop too far, emphasizing gimmicky features such as VR, and the Wii. However both have been killing it of late with PS4 offering a bevy of amazing smaller studio, and widely successfully exclusives, and Nintendo with the recent release of the Switch. Sony has really forced Microsoft, and Nintendo’s hand in being more accessible to indie developers and offering more indie content. So here’s to hoping for better, and more original content in the future!
Disenfranchised by the Current Game Offerings
Gamers are becoming more, and more accepted into the warm embrace of mainstream culture, as let’s face it almost everyone is a gamer at this point – I see you closet candy crush fiends. Bars also seem to be popping up left, right, and center revolving around arcade games such as pac-man, and street fighter, along with screens with which people can play fan favorites such as Smash Bros, and Mario Kart.
Classic games have also been going mobile as of late. Sony, and Square Enix pushed this with mobilizing the beloved Final Fantasy franchise (still waiting for FF7 re-mastered though), and Nintendo has recently followed suit with Mario Run, Pokemon Go, and Fire Emblem Heroes. The recent plans to launch mini preloaded versions of the NES and Dreamcast, may have also contributed to the reinvigorated passion for nostalgic gaming.
New Games done in “Retro” Style
Many indie studios are bringing back the old school feel, mechanics and in some cases the frustrating level difficulty that once made and still make the “classics” classics. Steam greenlight and sites such as itch.io have made this impossibly easy for indie and first time developers to get their games out there – but still doesn’t make it easier to make money. However, the ease at which one can create games on Unity, is trying to put a stop to this pixelated movement – time will tell the direction gaming will be headed, but needless to say the future is bright pixelated or not!