A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Retro Computing: Why Bother? Part 1: Overview

(Note: This post is also a test for the good folks at #retrochat on irc.synirc.net who have been encouraging me to make a Retro Computing thread on Something Awful.  Given that site's required quality of posts I want to test the waters before posting it there and this will give said channel a chance to look at what I do before I even bother posting it there, yet posting here still means I have another blog posting one way or the other...)

Retro gaming.  It is popular as heck these days.  Loose copies of Super Nintendo titles are going for big money, some like Earthbound can fetch double if not TRIPLE original MSRP in spite of the game having been clearance priced in the mid 90s for being a failure with the general pre Internet gaming audience.  Rare games like unauthorized third party titles or short run releases like the final Sega Saturn games in the USA command enough to pay cover one's bills for the month.

But when you look online the old school gaming discussion is mostly NES-N64 era for the English speaking western world's 20-30 something folk, and the Atari 2600 for the 30-40 set.

(Well those who are happy to spend time blabbing about old games.  The REALLY wealthy retro folk also talk about arcade games.  But as someone who works in a casino I see people willing to spend entirely too much money being kind of foolish every day.)

Yet... for many of us it wasn't gaming consoles that provided us most of our enjoyment of games back in the old days.

You will hear a lot of folks from Europe and the UK talking about Commodore and Sinclair.  And a small but generally annoyed group of US folks who inwardly sigh whenever the only old RPGs brought up seem to be an endless worship of Final Fantasy, or maybe Dragon Quest & Phantasy Star if they are classy.

(And we won't even get into the Earthbound fanbase.  I'd love to own a legit copy but y'all have pushed that game into a ridiculous price level for how common it is.)

There were other game systems people played on besides consoles.

They were computers.

Those things kids got their parents to buy them "to help with their homework" but were really bought to play all sorts of boss games, usually copied off someone else due to difficulty at finding these games (nothing has changed sadly), and the fact that kids & teens are amoral greedy little self entitled shites.

Why would I want to get into playing games on old computers?

Well... IT'S FUN.

Old computers were a lot of fun to work with.  They required more effort and intelligence to use than consoles.  You normally didn't just plug a controller in, plug the power supply in, then connect an RF or RCA cable to the TV set.  You had disk drives and tape drives to connect.  Volume controls to adjust perfectly so that 20 minute tape load wouldn't give you an error message.  All sorts of awesome peripherals to both make your machine better, and you could actually do some proper work with them too.

To use an old computer when new and now is the difference between just driving a modern car with whatever options you like already in place, and buying an older car and working on it.  Giving it a kick ass stereo.  Driving stick for total control.  Tweaking almost everything with parts.

Sure lots of swearing and the odd cuts and bruises happen as a result but.. its more fulfilling.

There is also History.   If you are interested in the history of electronic gaming retro computing isn't optional, it is REQUIRED.  So many genres, game styles, and even legendary companies got their start on computers.  Outside of Activision, most of the trailblazers were working on computer games.  Retro console darlings Rare and Bungie began life making games on the Spectrum and the Macintosh respectively.  Hell, Jack Tramiel's decisions when he took over Atari had direct influence on console gaming's rebirth into the billion dollar level industry it is today!

The first real time strategy games.  The first RPGs.  The first survival horrors.  Online multiplayer games.  Action adventures.  You name it and computer gaming probably did it first.  You just didn't hear about it, and modern gamers, the gaming press, and even most retrogaming discussions tend to forget or ignore it all as if nothing mattered if it wasn't on a console.

Join me next time for some basic information on the classic computers of yesterday.

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I like to play nerd games! I am a nerd! Join our nerd ways at https://www.facebook.com/groups/112040385527428/