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Misconceptions about retro gamers

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We retro gamers have been spoiled in recent years. Developers love to spit out remastered editions of classics, and we love to buy and replay them. Remastering is not limited to games, but also extends to the classic consoles themselves: think (S)NES Classic/Mini and MegaDrive/Genesis Mini. Then there is the recent resurgence of shiny retro handheld devices. Most of them use emulation software, but there are exceptions such as the Analogue Pocket.

I sure do love buying old Game Boy games—I’ve written about it quite a few times here—and reading the Retro Gamer magazine. But there is one thing that I have to get off my chest. Retro gamers are stigmatized. Non-retro folks think we’re weird. And that’s okay: everyone is. Still, there are a few persistent misconceptions about the image of a retro gamer that I would like to clear up here. Let us go over each of these and see whether or not I’m capable of rectifying most misconceptions.

Retro gamers are old.

Of course, many retro gamers are people who loved these games when they were first released, perhaps two or even three decades ago. However strong the nostalgic part is, I’ve also met younger gamers that call themselves SNES retro enthusiasts, even though they were born at the every end of the nineties—while the SNES was released in 1992 in Europe. Thus, retro does not necessarily equal nostalgia!

Retro gamers are only interested in old games.

Partially true, perhaps, depending on the definition of old. Many recent game releases are partially or fully inspired by classic games: think The Messenger, which is inspired by both NES and MegaDrive-era games, Sonic Mania, which is, well, Sonic 2.5, or Hollow Knight that successfully blends elements from Mega Man and Super Metroid.

Again, 2021 is a great time to be a retro gamer. But we do also love new games! For me, though, I appreciate these more if they are inspired by older ones. And there are so many of those that it seems impossible to keep track of them: from RPGs (Dragon Quest XI), simulations (Two Point Hospital), and shooters (Project Warlock) to adventure games (Thimbleweed Park). In a way, you could say these are new old games.

Retro gamers are cartridge blowers.


A stack of Retro Gaming Goodness.

Retro gamers only like playing on old CRTs.

What? No. I already have glasses, there is no point in making things worse. There’s the MiSTer, an FPGA-powered hardware upscaler. There exist GameCube HDMI adapters. There are even GBA HDMI kits that allow you to play Circle of the Moon on your TV. Not that I’d want to make a handheld device a non-handheld one.

Of course, there’s nothing like playing original consoles on original hardware. For a while. Squinting makes my head hurt. Even for older non-backlit handheld devices, retro modding exists to alleviate the biggest flaw. Let there be light! (Or a GBA SP AGS 101 on eBay for $200+)

Retro gamers are hoarders.

Don’t confuse collectors with retro gamers. The concepts do not always overlap. Many retro gamers are collectors, or vice versa, but not always. Although I do like physical versions of games, but that’s again the nostalgic part at play, not necessarily the retro part.

I buy games to… well… play them. The shock!

Many retro gamers are content with their SNES Mini, where a predefined collection of games comes embedded with the device (yes, it’s hackable). Or with their Chinese RGB351M handheld, where all you need to do is drag a bunch of ROMs onto an SD card. Although technically speaking, that might be seen as digital hoarding. So handling physical cartridges isn’t for every retro gamer.

Retro gamers know all Mario levels by heart.

That one is true. Well, most of them anyway.

Retro gamers hate 3D.

I suck at 3D platforming, but that does not mean I don’t have a soft spot for games like Mario 64 or GEX 3D. I suck at aiming in 3D shooters but I still enjoy a good Medal of Honor campaign or blasting my way through hordes of enemies in Serious Sam. Come to think of it, I seem to be pretty bad at many types of games.

Starfox Adventures on the GameCube or Spyro on the Playstation 1 definitely count as retro. Heck, Duke “3D” (well, not really) was released in 1996, that definitely counts as retro, right? This begs the question: what exactly is retro gaming? Wikipedia proclaims it’s playing older games, usually from discontinued systems, in modern times. Does this mean Hollow Knight or The Messenger are not retro games, as these are released and playable on current-gen systems? Perhaps, but it’s certainly heavily influenced by retro games.

I don’t think adhering to such a strict definition is advisable: retro gaming is very much a personal thing. There are so many great ways to enjoy games of yesteryear. Just pick one, play and enjoy.

And remember to leave your prejudices at home.

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I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

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