Novel games offer unprecedented graphics quality, yet some choose to spend a small fortune for games that are decades old. Enter: retro gaming.
Modern video games are unbelievably immersive. High-quality textures bring the experience ever closer to a threshold where real and simulated overlap. Technological advances enable virtual reality gaming, seen only in sci-movies not so long ago.
Gaming, however, is not immune to the nostalgia-tech movement. As crowds of hobbyists spend time and money collecting and restoring vintage personal computers, game enthusiasts eye decades-old games and gaming consoles.
"I sometimes compare it to people who love classic cars. They might not have all the bells and whistles as new ones, but they are coveted nonetheless."-Jessica Carrell
The interest in vintage gaming has garnered so much attention that even speculators flock to cash in on the action. This July, an unopened Super Mario 64 game cartridge was sold for a record $1.56 million. The record didn't last long as less than a month later, a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. was auctioned for $2 million.
Even legendary computers sell for less. For example, Apple's first computer, released in 1976, the Apple I, auctions for around $1 million. Unlike with mass-produced game cartridges, there are only a handful of first Apple devices.
Monetary incentive, however, is a side effect of the fascination with old video games and not the cause. Just as with retro computers, vintage games have nostalgic allure for a generation that grew up spending time in front of an Atari, NES, Sega Genesis, or any other machine.
Respecting the classics
Not everyone, however, would agree that retrogamers act purely out of nostalgia. Not any more nostalgic than anyone admiring a Stanley Kubrick's film or Oscar Wild novel. After all, there are many modern movies and books, but that doesn't necessarily mean that everything made in the past has only sentimental value.
"Gaming doesn't always get better. It just gets different. Retrogaming is like good books and good movies, tends to stand firm against the test of time. People spend their money and time on video games because playing video games makes them happy. They describe it as investing in their joy," Georgi Todorov, gamer and owner of ThriveMyWay, told CyberNews.
Others might hold older games as less polished and more innovative. Difficult tasks coupled with an inability to save game progress caused a lot of broken controllers, yet the reward of completing a difficult game is as delightful as it is enraging to lose for the nth time to the same game boss.
According to Jessica Carrell, retrogamer and co-founder of AnySpftwareTools, retrogaming allure also plays with the notion that new is not always better. Outdated graphics and simple gameplay sometimes can be more enjoyable than a state-of-the-art modern video game.
"It's also a way to express interest in gaming in a saturated market. I sometimes compare it to people who love classic cars. They might not have all the bells and whistles as new ones, but they are coveted nonetheless," Carrell told CyberNews.
Another reason to stash a stack of old games might be well understood by the same people who like to have a vinyl copy of their favorite album. While digital platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, or Netflix offer an unprecedented catalog of content a few clicks away, platform users don't really own the content they're listening to.
"They become rarer and unaffected by digital policies as time goes on.[…] While physical copies take up space, they aren't subject to things like a game being pulled off a digital storefront due to bugs or content," Carla Diaz, retrogamer and co-founder of Broadband Search, told CyberNews.
For a dedicated vintage game collector, space is not an issue. We've dived down to a retrogaming community on Reddit, where hobbyists share some of the most audacious retrogaming set-ups they’ve made.
Only vintage games and consoles are allowed on the subreddit with entries no later than the 5th generation consoles, ending in the early '00s. Take a look at the most impressive collections our eyes came across.
"Gaming area after 12 years"
"My family thinks I’m crazy"
"When I need an escape from the madness, I just go downstairs for a while"
"Pixel art made with carts"
"My Retro Gaming nook I built in my garage"
"A gaming room is a great way to escape a pandemic"
"New Game Room"
"Currently at ~12,700 games and counting"
"The current state of my setup"
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