The rise of retro gaming

In a world obsessed with innovation and progress, we also do great deal of looking back at the past. In fact, retro is such a phenomenon these days that it’s reaching into virtually every area of our lives.

Of course, it’s always played a huge part in fashion with each successive generation of designers looking to the past for inspiration. Car makers have also got heavily in on the act with everyone from Fiat to Volkswagen and Mini going back to designs of yesteryear and updating them for the 21stcentury. Or take the vinyl revivalin the UK. Five years ago, who could have predicted that people would be replacing their CD collections – not with subscriptions to online streaming services, but with 12” discs and old-style record players? 4.1million vinyl albums were sold in the UK in 2017 as sales hit their highest level since 1991.

So it’s no real surprise that the same is true of retro gaming.

Dig out those consoles

People across the world are heading up into their lofts or their cellars and digging out their old Atari and Nintendo consoles, blowing off the dust and getting ready to play the old favourites. Naturally, this hasn’t passed unnoticed by the manufacturers either, and when Nintendo brought out its updated version of the NES last year it sold out almost immediately.

This is having a huge effect on the prices of the games themselves. One of the most high profile was a copy of Nintendo Virtual Boy Bowling that sold for $2,399 on Ebay in September of last year. To even play it you’d have to get your hands on an equally rare Virtual Boy console that’s likely to set you back at least $300, if you can even find one.

As to why people are so willing to part with their hard-earned cash for distinctly last century technology, there are a number of reasons.

The appeal of retro

Obviously, the first is that many see it as a good investment which should gradually rise in price just like vintage cars and antiques with the built-in rarity value continuing to fuel the increases.

The second more psychological explanation is that there is a timeless human desire to look back fondly on earlier, more carefree times – bathing in the rosy glow of nostalgia. Although video games had been in existence in their most basic form as long ago as the 1950s it wasn’t until the 1980s that they really started to get big. So the teens who were playing them in those days are now entering early middle age, a classic time to try to regain a lost youth.

But, of course, it isn’t just the relatively wealthy 40-somethings who are driving the boom – a the younger generation also enjoys the pleasures of an altogether simpler kind of gaming than the one that they’ve been used to. There’s something about the more basic graphics, far less complicated game structure and undeniably cheesy sound effects that can’t help but cast a spell over players and help them escape to a world so different to their present reality.

The other element that many players find in equal parts enjoyable and challenging is just how hard many of them are to complete. Instead of giving players seemingly limited opportunities to refuel, take on more weapons and otherwise enhance their chances, very often it was the case that you had a fixed number of lives, usually three, and when they were gone it was game over. Some did give you the chance to earn an extra life for exceptionally high scoring, but even this was very hard to achieve.

The invasion begins

Many of these games had their origins in the video game arcades that had started to spring up in the late 1970s and 1980s and there were two key themes. The first was space and the second involved some kind of chase to get to the end of a round or a task. Some even included both these elements.

Of the space games, it was Space Invaders that really set the ball rolling and which became ubiquitous in pubs up and down the country, edging fruit machines more and more into the corner. As wave after wave of bleeping aliens descended, determined on invasion, the increasingly insistent bleeping added to the tension and excitement. Another game which aimed to fend off an alien attack was Missile Command in which the idea was to create a solid shield against incoming laser rays hell bent on destroying Earth. And then, in an almost Zen-like opposite, there was the visually sparse Asteroids in which the sole aim was to prevent a space ship from being destroyed by floating meteorites.

Turning to the “chasing” games, Pac Man was a crazy mash-up of guiding an indeterminate ball-shaped mouth round a maze to collect fruit and score points while a number of other ghost-like creatures gave chase. This, undoubtedly, was the first stepping stone towards creating those two classic chase games that for many define retro gaming, Sega’s Sonic The Hedgehog and Nintendo’s Super Mario series.

Retro gambling

The increasing popularity of retro gaming is also starting to send out cultural ripples into many other related areas – including online gambling. In an increasingly growing area of the gambling market, the challenge facing online operators is to find a way to stand out from the crowd.

An example of a company that have done this very effectively recently is 777 casino. By adopting a unique design, this brand has managed to maintain an engaging, immersive 1950s Las Vegas look and feel while incorporating a slick and functional scrolling website design. It harks back to the golden age of gambling, featuring a Wurlitzer soundtrack and chequered flooring definitive of the era. But there’s nothing historic about its gaming, which is very in tune with the modern age. As well as the casino favourites such as blackjack and poker, there’s a range of state-of-the-art slot games that can keep gamers immersed for hours. This stand-out appeal is clear to see by playing online slots at 777 casino.

The influence of retro has also reached the big screen in Stephen Spielberg’s 2018 movie Ready Player One,a futuristic taleset in 2045 that involves many references to the video games of the 1980s and 90s along with countless other nostalgic cues.

So it all adds up to the fact that retro gaming is definitely here to stay. But whether its increasing popularity will mean that prices will continue to rise, or if games makers will start to produce more affordable consoles and games remains to be seen. Either way, it spells a real lot of retro fun for all of us.

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