As retro gamers, we have a habit of yearning back to the time of our youths. From loading tapes to navigating DOS commands, the era when we first saw what the gaming world could offer occupies a special place in hearts. Having put some thought into this idea recently, we found ourselves re-examining exactly how big a part nostalgia plays.
Sure, the first few years will always be important, but in our donning of rose-tinted glasses, we often overlook our former struggles. The frustrations of damaged data, the annoyance of IRQ management, and the boredom of massive loading times, all of these concepts continue to fill us with dread. To that end, we want to make the argument that, despite being decades detached from our origins, we believe that, all things considered, the golden age of retro gaming is today.
The Cheaper Hardware
If you’re looking for the highest-end computer, running a 30 series graphic card and Comet Lake processor can easily run you above the £2,000 mark. For comparison, a standard Commodore 64 cost £399 when it launched in 1982, or £1,418 today when adjusted for inflation. Either way, it cost a lot of money to get access to gaming back then, but what about today?
While you’d naturally expect the cost to performance ratio to improve, taking a look at the exact numbers can reveal a far more extreme change that we’d expect. For this, we’ll use the Raspberry Pi 3 device as a point of measure.
One of these devices costs around £45 new, or 1982’s equivalent of about £13. Looking within these devices reveals a standard performance profile of 1Gb of RAM, with a CPU clocked at 1.4GHz. For reference, a C64 had 64Kb of RAM and a CPU which operated around 1MHz. A little math shows that at 1/30th of the adjusted cost, the Pi has more than 15,000 times the RAM, and 1,400 times the processor speed. Factor in the much greater efficiency of modern tech and this disparity only grows.
This is important because of just how much each system can offer. A C64 could only play C64 games, with slowdown for unoptimized titles. If you turn a Raspberry Pi into a retro-gaming machine, you can not only play every single C64 on the market flawlessly, but also practically every other retro game released up until the late ’90s. Impossibly expensive in the year’s passed, but overwhelmingly cheap today.
Help and Communities
The other side of this equation comes from the community support as made possible through the internet. For this example, consider the differences which were found in older and newer support systems. With the modern internet, finding websites and resources to help any group from any location pursuing any form of gaming is a cakewalk.
On the largest modern gaming scale, we can see this idea in action everywhere. Whether through a dedicated subreddit or one of the major gaming forums like NeoGaf and Resetera, help and communities exist all around us. Millions of users are active on these sites every day, offering support we would have killed for back in the 80s and 90s.
This doesn’t just pertain to video games either, applying to a whole range of the interactive entertainment spectrum. For example, if you want to get started with online gambling in India, then finding help is easy. Dedicated websites built for this single concept contain helpful information like bonuses and special features, becoming instantly helpful despite how specifically the service is targeted.
Retro video gaming might be slightly more niche, but it’s still just as well represented in the modern age. Even if we ignore the obvious example of our website, there are also dozens of community forums out there to help retro gamers get involved, share their discoveries, and help each other out.
Before the internet, communities and help systems like these were practically a non-entity. If you were lucky you might have a local scene to help you along, or a once-a-month magazine could touch on an issue you face.
A Totality of Convenience
The idea of a golden age is inherently a subjective thing. That said, the way so many retro gamers instantly overlook the modern era is something that has never quite sat well with us. Of course, the tactile feel of retro hardware is simply unreplaceable, but in most other ways, we’re happy that the industry has evolved as it has.
Today, finding the right hardware to play libraries of thousands of games is easier and cheaper than ever. Combine this with the expansion of help and community systems dedicated to old-school games, and it’s perhaps little surprise that, so many years later, the retro community is still growing. From this perspective, each passing year only makes retro gaming better, and for those who have been in love with this world for decades, that’s a heart-warming thought.