I Time Travel – What Does Retro Gaming Mean to You?

I Time Travel.

Yes, that’s right. I time travel pretty much every day. Sounds cheesy… It is not. Whether I am looking on eBay for the last few pieces of my retro games collection of a puzzle, or if I am talking to my mates about which games we used to love as kids or finally, and most importantly, when I am actually playing the retro games that I have… I time travel. You see, for me, each one of my games that I have signifies a strong memory. A dwelling of my past. A feeling or sensation is attached. As soon as I switch on my SEGA Master System II and ‘Alex (the) Kidd in Miracle World’ (a whole other article) comes on, I am immediately transported back to my sixth birthday, which then reminds me of a whole bunch of other totally cool events from that weekend. For example, I had my birthday party at McDonalds! OMG! When I boot up my Dreamcast and see the writing appear letter by letter as the blue dot hops freely across the top of ‘Dreamcast’ to the tune of the welcome music… I am there in my bedroom, fourteen again.

For me, they’re a link to my past, my childhood, my youth, and my adolescence. Me. Going back. Reliving great times. Even some not so great. But that is all part of life and how I understand it. It is not a case of not being able to let go or move on, simply me popping back now and again keeping those times very much in the present with me. They are a part of me.

(More boring stuff…) I have always been in tune with my inner self. I am quick to recognise how I feel about something. And the games I have, I love them. My retro collection, as a chronology begins with my Sega Master System II and includes the Sega Megadrive II, Sony PlayStation (not PS1!), Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast and PS2 (and a stack of PC games). It comprises of games that were bought for me mainly as gifts for my birthday and Christmas or as a treat for being good (LOL!), therefore are forever etched into my memories. The good thing about being a grown up is that I now have the money to buy the games that I played on as a kid (borrowed from pals or rented from Blockbuster!) but couldn’t afford. I have dispensed much of the spare money I have on these games. For example, one of my favourite games as a child was Alien Soldier for the Megadrive. Sadly I didn’t own it, but luckily, a friend lent it to me when I was in Y6 – in the summer term before I left junior school and moved house. What a game! I loved it. Beautiful. Simple. I can hear the music now as I take Epsilon-Eagle on a gun-run rampage through various places blasting unknown creatures to bits or setting them on fire. Then, “EMERGENCY. EMERGENCY.” And the music gets all serious, and I’m like, “Uh-oh…” It was time to meet the boss… I paid £80 for it (mint and complete – obviously) on eBay four years ago as a treat to myself for passing my Teacher Training – so now this game means even more. I don’t collect all the games there is to collect, for me it’s not about filling in the gaps for the sake of it. I have kept all the games that I loved. I just buy ones that have meaning and I still play them. Often.

The music and sound effects of the earlier games in my collection are simply hypnotic. There has been quite an increase in demand in the last year not just for 8 bit videos of this and that, but music too. I have a range of 8 bit ring tones on my iPhone (including the Game of Thrones opening theme tune – so good!) which are beyond cool! The sounds really do it for me (no kiddin’…?) I mean, if you’ve ever played FIFA 95 and you score a goal… Well, do you button bash as the fireworks go off, the air horn sounds or the man shouts “GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLL” for as long as you hold down the button? Or do you plan a short sequence to insult your mate who you have just put one past? I know I did both. What memories.  Crazy Taxi, another wonderful example. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” Then the music. Arcade times.

Sensations… It depends on the game. Most games obviously engage most of the senses – especially since the rumble packs were introduced in console controllers. I can even feel a connection with the character as well as the kinesthesis and calibration of the muscles in my hands and arms. Particularly in fighting games. Two words (one actually). Soulcalibur. UNREAL! A masterpiece. It holds up now as a visually stunning game (I play my Dreamcast on my HD TV on VGA). And the fighting movement system, the characters, the storyline, the weapons… Simply amazing. I would say I connected with the character – for me my favourite was Maxi, the nunchaku guy. When you hit, it’s like, “Awesome!” The connection of mind, hands, control pad. Total immersion. I remember school holidays on this game when I was fourteen. I remember those days so well.

Nostalgia. A feeling of longing. That is what drives us retro-gamers isn’t it? For me it is. The memories. And then, the gameplay. For many of you out there, it’s the gameplay that you still love. Then maybe the memories. The feeling of reliving the past is ever present. For me it was 2006 (I was 20). I was at university and randomly got talking to my mate about all our old games. Hours went by in minutes. My games hadn’t been out of the loft since I was a kid and my current console at the time was a PS2. Frantically, I raced home, got all the games out, and that was the rest of the weekend gone. I was just a kid again. And ever since, I have been re-introduced to all that I had once loved. Some kind of inception that had been buried so deep had surfaced. Now, it will never leave. Was the feeling just waiting there dormant, ready to come to appear? I think so. YouTube videos on all sorts of games were watched as I started to build play lists for each console. Retro is here to stay with me and so many of you. It is fair to say, it’s an obsession. That is why the Retron Consoles are so great. It is a fast easy connection to the past and, or, a great way to play all those old classics on a HD TV. I will play my games with my Son as he gets older (lucky him!). And I want him to build his own collection with me. I want him to appreciate the times we will share, as I did with my family and friends. Together we will build the same memories. Maybe we can time travel in years to come.

What does retro gaming mean to you? I know what it means to me.  It’s about memories, but of course I loved the game play. I still do. I wouldn’t have even fallen for them if they weren’t great games would I? And things that are great, are often timeless. Or perhaps there is a game that isn’t that great, but I still love it anyway. My current console is the PS3. I love it too. Will it be retro? I mean properly retro? I don’t know. That is a whole other issue. I know that just like all my other games and consoles, my PS3 collection one day, will mean much more than just games.