Chris from At the Buzzer shares his wisdom.
99%G: Following my recent guest post, we’re thrilled to have Chris from At The Buzzer here to continue our list of things Retro Gaming has taught us about the medium we all know and love. “The brainchild of three men desperate for attention”, At The Buzzer is a great site and podcast series celebrating video games among other things. Check them out!
My first console was the Nintendo Entertainment System when I was 4. Basically, I took the opposite approach that Michael did — I started with the cold, harsh reality of retro gaming, and have slogged my way through 23 years of games since then. My earliest experiences involved my 62-year-old grandma kicking my ass at Dr. Mario, and never getting far enough in the original Metroid to discover that Samus was hot.
Still, I enjoy booting up an emulator — er, I mean, hooking up my old systems — to play the great NES, SNES and Genesis games from time to time. There’s something simple and effective about that era. We didn’t need elaborate cutscenes or top-notch graphics; we played with sprites and extreme difficulty and uphill both ways in the snow and wooden nickels and GET OFF MY LAWN.
Here’s five things I learned from growing up in the middle of the video game renaissance:
5. Samus was hot
I wasn’t good enough to beat Metroid when I was 5, but I was by the time I was 12. That was an awkward age, a time when I started to discover that girls didn’t have cooties — instead, they were soft and smelled nice. There was no internet back then, so I had no idea about the surprise that awaited me once I beat the game quickly enough. That was a girl kicking ass the entire time? It blew my mind. Nintendo (whether accidentally or not) managed to plant an early flag for strong female characters in gaming, a trend that hasn’t really caught on as much as it should have.
4. Co-op is extremely fun
I love co-operative play. I’ll tell anyone in a five-mile radius. Sure, there have been some fantastic single-player experiences like Metroid Prime and Fallout over the years, but nine times out of 10 I’ll take sitting on a couch with friend(s) and taking on a game. The first co-op game I ever played was Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers on the NES, a game that was surprisingly ahead of its time. My grandma and I worked together to throw boxes and acorns at everything that moved. Those early experiences fostered a love of shared gaming that has only grown to this day.
3. Cartridges > CDs
Remember the simple nostalgia of blowing into a cartridge because you thought it would help make the game work? I do. Younger generations probably think that sounds like a lame hassle, but it wasn’t and YOU SHUT UP YOU WHIPPERSNAPPER. Cartridges were durable and didn’t have 15-second load times when you switched between menus. They also had built-in saving systems, so you didn’t have to purchase company-specific SD cards just to play a game (I’m looking at you, PSP/Vita!). Sure, we had to switch from cartridges to take on the fancy graphics and sound files of today, but I still miss them.
2. Consoles were more durable
I’ve owned one SNES in my lifetime. I got it in 1991 as part of a package with Street Fighter II, and it still works 21 years later.
I’ve owned three PS3s in my lifetime. I bought one in 2008 (one of those awesome hipster PS3s that was actually backwards compatible) and it died in 16 months. Another one died in 13 months.
Look, I get that the technology inside of systems has drastically changed. Newfangled sexy graphics don’t just appear out of nowhere — it takes advanced processors and microchips to pull it off. But I’m still baffled by how quickly the current-gen systems seem to get taken by the yellow light or red ring of death. I love that I can still plug in my family’s NES and get it to work today. (Sure, I have to hit it a few times or put in two cartridges at once to play anything, but damn it, it works!)
1. I freaking love video games
Okay, so I’m stealing from my predecessor’s list here. But it’s true. Gaming has all the cinematic appeal of movies, except you control the story! You get to put yourself in Link’s shoes while you hack and slash your way through Ganon’s minions to save Zelda, or slap people silly with a crowbar while talking to hundreds of scientists. You can play with or against friends and create memories along the way. Remember that time that Aeris got a 347-foot sword through her stomach? Remember that time that Mario said “It’s-a me, Mario!” Those were iconic moments in a genre that has given me thousands of hours of enjoyment over the years. And I don’t see that changing any time soon.