Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The old charm of retro hardware

Some people like to use old, inconvenient stuff from time to time. Chrysler buyers. People that send letters on the mail. People that enjoy having vinyl records.

Yeah, vinyl. You know, the big black music thinguies from years past; that old analog contraptions that tried to do carry music using a sadistic looking, needle totting machine to scratch the thing into submission.

Well, in another dark, geeky corner of pop culture, we can find some cultists also venerating old pieces of apparently useless tech. People that enjoy using outdated relics that offer sub-par performance, annoying noises and basic, barebones, simplistic experiences. People that love old, basic hardware. Old videogames. Retro gamers.

I became a member of the cult awhile ago, when I misteriously obtained (cough - cough) a Sega Dreamcast. After much scouring the internets for games and scoring some old classics from Ebay, I must say that the thing has gotten quite a bit of play.

The Dreamcast, however, is not really that old. It came out in 1999, after all; it is barely older than the Playstation 2. Nintendo, however, came to the rescue, with what is probably the most evil ploy to make people spend money ever: the Wii Virtual Console, aka how to make me spend money in 25 year old pieces of code that look like ass on a HDTV, but we love playing anyway. I have given money to Konami way too many times to play Gradius, and that sucker is still fun.

The crown jewel on old relics, however, is my favourite Christmas gift ever: The Nintendo 64 that my wife got me this year. It is a cranky piece of hardware, and some games refuse to work. I really haven´t played that much with it. But it looks so good, under the TV, a tribute to all things fun and Mario that I just adore the thing. Same with the Dreamcast, really; more than the games, it is about owning a little piece of pop culture history - a piece that happens to be fun.

No, I won´t get into the "games back then were better". They were not. The Legend of Zelda on the NES is still fun, but it is a bit like watching a Battleship Potemkin - to appreciate what you are doing, you need to understand at least a bit what the game meant (Zelda is the original sandbox game, by the way; no Zelda, no Grand Theft Auto IV). Most games in some of the "transitional" generations (specially the clunky early 3D, Playstation, Saturn, N64 era) are downright klunky, and don´t have much to enjoy. The few exceptions (like Mario 64) are fun, but downright ugly; early 3D lacking the ultraminimalist charm of pixel art. Nostalgia has a lot to do with it.

In any case, old stuff has its charm. I like old stuff, specially the beeping interactive kind. Next time you see an old, forgotten videogame, remember that it is a little piece of history. 100 years from now, Contra and Bionic Commando (NES versions) will be treasured as we know treasure Harold Lloyd movies.

1 comment:

  1. Your wife has awesome taste;-) I know you so well. You didnt praise NES pinball btdubs.