Old Timers – Casual Gaming Column Introduction

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Casual Retro Gaming

Alright… um, welcome to the first LazyGamer Casual Gaming column. I’m Matthew Vice, formerly the editor of Play Tech Magazine and gaming editor for Otaku Magazine. I work for LazyGamer now, and rather than providing you with more news, seeing as how we have a number of members who are far better at that than I am, my job is to provide you with interesting and entertaining features.

The reason we created this column was, firstly, to give LazyGamer readers something interesting – but not too drawn-out – to read, and secondly to discuss issues regarding gaming in general. I’ve been a gamer since damn near the beginning, and the first game I ever played was Space Invaders. I’ve loved video and computer games of all types for as long as I can remember, and I’ve never been the type to champion only one platform… OK, well, except for a small stint in my teens when I believed that PCs were some transcendent gaming platform. But I got over that quickly.

So what will we discuss here? Well, just about anything gaming related, as I mentioned before. I’ll try my best to come up with something pertinent, or not so pertinent, every week. If you have any suggestions about something you’d like to hear discussed, I’m always open to ideas.

It mystifies some younger gamers how some of us older gamers can still play Excite Bike.

This time round, I got my inspiration from the first few Retro Gaming columns I wrote not a few hours ago. I’m going to talk about old-school gamers. You know what I mean? The old fogeys, like me, who have been around since the dawn of gaming and constantly harp on about the “good old days.” The question I have is: were the good old days really that good? We’re fond of telling the younglings, kids who only started gaming when the term “pixel shader” was commonly heard on school playgrounds, that they don’t know what they’re missing, or that they’ve got no room to talk because they haven’t played the previous 15 titles in the series. I’m sure that annoys them, and I think that might be part of the pleasure we derive from it; but doesn’t that kind of remind you of your grandparents, constantly telling you to stop listening to this awful rock/punk/rap/rave music and get a dose of some real, classical music for a change?

I know it’s fun for us old-school retro gamers to play our old favourites again and again – after all, we grew up with these games, so we’re used to the limitations. But what about younger gamers? Is it fun for them to go from playing a game at 720p with pixel shaders, HDR, bloomed lighting, rag-doll physics and multiple real-time shadows on each object to a game running in 320×200 resolution with 4 colours and PC speaker bleeps for sound? For them, it might be like when our well-meaning grandparents took us outside and drew lines in the sand with sticks to teach us how to play hopscotch when all we wanted to do was get back in front of the TV so we could bust some more skulls in Double Dragon.

Double Dragon can be considered a distant ancestor of games like Devil May Cry.

Your thoughts?

Last Updated: March 12, 2009

  • I also still love to boot up my old retro games. Even the “re-done” ones (like Chrono Trigger on the PS1 etc).

    Would love to see today’s youth in 20 years and see if they also get nostalgic thoughts of today’s games.

  • Nazcanlines

    working with the music analogy you drew up, in my teens I up to my early early 20’s I would not give old music a chance, perhaps late mid to late 70’s at a stretch. But now approaching my mid 20’s I find myself listening to lots of old music even stretching back to the 20’s, but at the same time enjoying contemporary music just as much. I think your palette broadens as you get older and you can find the good and bad from all eras. At the core of it I think we are searching for timelessness, and we learn to take things in context and forgive the limitations of the time. I recently started playing the old Lucasarts adventure games again, and day of the tentacle hasnt aged a bit; at its core its the storytelling and humour that makes it transcend eras. My sister never played these games growing up and she found DOTT fantastic, so we can even rule out the perhaps subjective nostalgia that might have drawn me into it.

  • I’m a huge retrogaming fan. Thankfully, some of those games – like Super Mario 3 – don’t need rose-tinted nostalgia glasses to still be enjoyable.

    With regards to Double Dragon being an ancestor to DMC, I’d say Sega’s Golden Axe fits the bill better – the fantasy setting, weapon based combat and magic abilities.

    Of course, you could argue that Golden Axe itself found inspiration in Double Dragon.

  • ewie

    There is just a certain charm on old retro adventure games from lucasart, even today with scummvm, they play wonderful, and the wit , nothing can beat it,

    What i would give for a new HD monkey island, or DOTT,
    or even a Indiana Jones – Atlantis etc.

    Or a star controll, with memorable caracters.

  • RivaZA

    Nice article.

    But.

    I have been playing games since the nes and all I can say is those games were awful. At the time I thought I was having fun but as I grew older I realized I was not having fun at all. I was rather a victim of a kind of games Stockholm Syndrome(thanks Tyco). Thank god those days are behind me.

    • Thanks, man.

      Just hurry up and go to the UK already.

  • I replay those lucasarts games on every new ScummVM-capable device that enters my hands.

  • Why were those games awful for you?

    If I think of games like Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger, Flashback, Commander Keen, Syndicate Wars… etc. etc. I only have good memories. And having re-play FF6 & Chrono Trigger recently, I found I still love those games.

  • Well Matt, let me be the first to welcome you 🙂 we miss the Mag and I’m positive you’re going to do great things for LazyGamer 🙂

    on the article at hand then I just took a gander at that there BMX screenshot you have and I instantly got shot back in time to “the good ‘ol days” that game was the raddest! even allowed you to create your own levels! not that we’re comparing age here or anything 😛

    but you have a valid point when it comes to comparisons of games coming in this generation gamers of old love to bring up comparison charts of what made a game great and it wasn’t about the pixel shading or dynamic lighting it was the game-play… you want my opinion gamers will never be happy no matter what you give them.

    players didn’t have complaints of games in the past because there really wasn’t anything to compare them again… we have soo many game comparisons, console wars, top 100 games of all time it’s no wonder games of today get put under so much scrutiny.

    gamers love to talk smack and diss a publisher for their in-ability to bring a game to a table and deliver the goods (albeit some deserve it). But what seems to matter the most is the fact that a game is a.) repetitive b.) doesn’t look close enough to real life c.) the controls are sucky….

    let me expand those points on today’s games
    a.) Games of yesteryear were repetitive just with different monsters/stages/etc. games of today follow a similair formula but offer you with things like character building unlocking abilities better equipment, etc. yes the game “may” be repetitive but depending on how you play them could very well alter your experience and that’s something older games don’t have..
    b.)Graphics this graphics that… blah blah… so bored of it, we’ve stepped into the next generation of graphics most of the AAA titles will have awesome graphics supported by Epic’s Unreal engine, so I’m not even sure why this is still a big issue… but when you bring a change to a game and introduce cell shading the game is instantly crap cause the graphics look poor… :getlost:
    c.) all I can say is that we’ve upgraded from a joystick and 1 button to 2x joysticks and 1x D-pad and 8x buttons… we have sooo many controls it’s ridiculous, it’s no wonder developers fall flat on their face when programming the complex movements … but yeah some games (ala Kane & Lynch) just got it horribly wrong

    I guess my point is this, there are multiple generations of games coming out and we need to remain focused on the present… the past is the past and is possibly not going to be reborn, however the formula is in each and everygame we play it’s just hidden behind complex shaders and 8 buttons contols. find the magic and have some fun

    There’s my 2 cents 🙂

  • Errr..

    That was about a buck fifty. :biggrin:

  • spl0it

    I still mourn the demise of Adventure gaming

  • yeah I may have gotten a little carried away… i have no control of my brain today

  • ok great .. please start with why PTZ went bust ? I loved the mag… so much better than the other 2 SA mags

  • Matthew

    Indeed. I completely agree. I wonder why they ever stopped. There are a few hitting the shelves every once in a while, even these days, but it’s hardly the same as it used to be.

    Does anyone know if So Blonde or a Vampyre Story turned out to be any good? They had my interest, being old-school adventure games and all. Don’t know if they were ever released here, though.

  • Matthew

    That’s an interesting angle to think about it from. I wonder if anyone will still be playing early DOS era games 20 years from now, also.

  • Matthew

    True, Golden Axe would be closer in terms of them than Double Dragon. But if we’re talking about games where you move along a set path beating seven shades out of everything that comes your way with an array of different moves… well, almost all fighting-oriented action games must give thanks to Double Dragon – for legitimatising the genre if nothing else.

  • Matthew

    Don’t read too much into what Riva is saying here – he’s just yanking your crank. Trust me.

  • To be honest, I think that accolade belongs to Irem’s 1984 classic Kung Fu Master. Double Dragon did add the extra axis for movement, and a few nifty moves (backward elbows ftw!) though.

    Being such a classic game fan, I’m keen to see what you have in store for us with the column 🙂
    Also, I’m convinced that ultimately, Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun (Kid Dracula) is at least a source of inspiration for DMC. I’m very probably wrong, but it is a great game, one of my very favourites from my misspent youth.

  • Matthew

    Wow. Thanks for the insightful reply. I agree you with you on so many issues here that I won’t list them, for fear of making it even longer.

    Regarding issue a) I get seriously suspicious when someone, even a credible overseas reviewer, mentions the word “repetitive”. OK, take something like P.N 02 on the Gamecube – now that’s repetitive. Do I care? Hell no. I could watch Vanessa Schneider wiggle her cute bum around for ages on end while I blast enemies in one of the most pure and zen-like games on the market. And wouldn’t the standard definitions of “repetitive” condemn all racing games as “repetitive”? – Actually, don’t answer that, I think I might be killing potential fodder for another column here.

    And point b) I also agree on the graphics issue. I mean sure, if a game has good graphics, I’ll like it more, they do add to the experience. But I wouldn’t dismiss a game on bad graphics alone. Take the PS2 version of Midnight Club 2, for instance. I bought it on recommendation from people whose opinion I value highly. When I popped it in and started playing, I was greeted by what is possibly the single ugliest PS2 game I’ve ever seen (rivaled only by Rogue Ops), and I though, Oh dear, what have I bought here? But after playing for 30 minutes, all regrets were completely forgotten.

    and issue c) Well, regarding controls, yeah, they have become more complex. I think it’s a good thing, though, because we need those extra functions to satisfy the more complex games we’re getting today. It’s taken developers a long time to discover the standards that players like. I’m a big fan of standardising, by the way. There’s nothing like switching from one game to another, possibly in different genres, and being able to get-up-and-go right away because the controls are – as far as possible – standardised. Damn, that’s another potential column righ there.

    I also agree with your final point. Retro gaming is all very well, there’s even a market for it, evidenced by what we’ve seen on PSN and XBox Live. But we need to stay focused on the here and now. Still, we’re at the point where the term “gaming history” is starting to carry some weight, and we and developers have a legacy of roughly 30 years to draw on for guidance. Times may have changed, but I know that there’s plenty older games can still teach us.

    I think I’ll end this now, or I’ll go on forever.

  • Matthew

    As do I, Spli0t, as do I.

    When was the last really great graphic adventure game anyway? I hear tell that it was a relatively unknown PC game called “The Longest Journey”, which I saw on that old TV Cybernet, but never got to play.

  • Matthew

    Maybe I will do just that.

  • Matthew

    What you say about music is true. As you get older, you feel less bound by your old tastes and peer pressure, and you even start to appreciate things in ways you didn’t before. Things like music.

    I wonder if the younger gamers today will do that with gaming when they get older?

  • The longest journey and it’s sequel Dreamfall were both incredible adventure games (although some of the puzzles were a little /too/ obscure)

    As far as I’m concerned, the last GREAT adventure game was Grim Fandango. It would have been Escape from Monkey Island, but without Tim Schafer the series just lost a lot of its charm and atmosphere.
    Still a decent game though. 😛

  • Matthew

    You might be right about that. I think Double Dragon was the game to really bring the idea of ploughing through hordes of opponents to the masses, though. Double Dragon showed up round about the time of home consoles, and became more accessible, I think.

    I remember being blown away by it when my friend showed it to me when I was 9. I couldn’t think about anything else for weeks. The same happened when I first discovered Street Fighter II Championship Edition at Northgate. Aaaah. Memories.

    I hope you find my retro gaming column to be as much fun as this one. The first one should be up tomorrow. I’ll upload another shortly after that, since I’ve got to make up for beginning of March.

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