• magisterrex Retro Games

    I've been gaming since the days of Pong and still own a working Atari 2600. I tend to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games. Sometimes I digress. Decades after earning it, I'm finally putting the skills I learned while completing my history degree from the University of Victoria to good use. Or so I think. If you're into classic old school gaming, this blog is for you!

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Defining Retrogaming

Having been on Twitter for some time now (since November 2008 – my how time flies), and one of the hashtags that interest me is #retrogaming.  This particular hashtag is used by all sorts of people to describe their gaming activities: sometimes it refers to some serious oldschool gaming, like the microreviews by @oldgamereviewer on Atari 2600 games or by @0LDSCH00LJUNKIE to refer to one of his amazing “First Round” blog entries; sometimes the reference is much more dubious.

When someone pulls out their PS2 and tweets that they’re retrogaming, somewhere in the dim recesses of my mind I hear Inigo Montoya say, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.“  Inconceivable!

So, what, exactly, do we mean by the word, “retrogaming”?

At the risk of sounding like yet another Internet-based know-it-all, I believe that there are three characteristics that define retrogaming.  These are:

  1. At least 10 years have passed since its original North American release. (This is a purely geographical constraint, and you can substitute “Europe” or “Japan” if you wish.  Like a good scotch, it needs time to mellow.
  2. Lastgen systems aren’t retrogaming, regardless of their original release date. Hardware history years are like reverse dog years in a way.  Games and accessories are released for years as long as the system remains popular, and continue to be released even after the Nextgen system is introduced on the market.  Without this rule we’d be calling some systems retrogaming even with a slate of new games being released for them, which is clearly counter-intuitive.
  3. The entire console line are discontinued systems, and no others in the series were ever released.  We can call this either the NEC or Sega axiom, which should be self-explanatory for most long-time gamers.

Let’s look at some examples to determine if these elements of retrogaming truly describe what retrogaming is:

System: The Sony PlayStation.
North American Release / Discontinue Date: 1995 / 2006
Lastgen?: NO
Discontinued Console Series?: NO 
: Yes, the PS1 is a retrogaming system.
System: Sony PlayStation 2
North American Release / Discontinue Date: 2000
Lastgen?: YES
Discontinued Console Series?: NO 
: No, the PS2 is not a retrogaming system..
System: Sega Dreamcast
North American Release / Discontinue Date: 1998 / 2001
Lastgen?: NO
Discontinued Console Series?: YES 
: Yes, the Dreamcast is a retrogaming system.
System: Nintendo Gamecube
North American Release / Discontinue Date: 2002 / 2007
Lastgen?: YES
Discontinued Console Series?: NO 
: No, the Gamecube is not a retrogaming system.
System: Nintendo 64
North American Release / Discontinue Date: 1996 / 2002
Lastgen?:  NO
Discontinued Console Series?:  NO 
: Yes, the N64 is a retrogaming system.
System: Microsoft Xbox
North American Release / Discontinue Date: 2001 / 2006
Lastgen?: YES
Discontinued Console Series?: NO 
: No, the Xbox is not a retrogaming system.

From these examples, it appears that these three aspects of retrogaming make for an efficient definition of the genre.  We can even test it on older systems, such as the Super Nintendo or the Sega Genesis:

System: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
North American Release / Discontinue Date: 1991 / 1999
Lastgen?: NO
Discontinued Console Series?: NO 
: Yes, the SNES is a retrogaming system
System: Sega Genesis
North American Release / Discontinue Date: 1989 / 1997
Lastgen?: NO
Discontinued Console Series?: YES 
: Yes, the Genesis is a retrogaming system

And again, the definition holds.  Even so, does this make a difference in the games you play or the fun you have playing them?  Certainly not! Ultimately this is simply a tool to bring clarity to the retrogaming discussion.  Of course, if you disagree (or agree!), post your comments!

11 Responses

  1. can you help? i cant seem to read any of the oldgamereviewer blogs. it says i have to be invited first, and the twitter is gone. Ive never tried so hard to get at someones online opinion.

  2. It is subjective and open to debate but I must admit to using more or less the same definition for retrogaming as yourself. I do think the prefix retro is overused in most walks of life, mostly describing something that is older than the current model and that has got to be wrong. Putting an actual time limit on calling a console retro is silly, if a new console wasn’t released for 15 years you wouldn’t call your latest console retro would you?

  3. Thank you for this article! I wouldn’t have even considered the original PlayStation retro, but I agree… it just makes me feel kind of old now, haha!

  4. That’s not a bad definition, “console before last” is pretty safe as far as I am concerned. I don’t get too hung up on it, but would raise an eyebrow if someone claimed PS2 was retro…

  5. […] “S” model that was included with the Japanese release.  10 years later, with the Xbox now a retrogaming machine, there are still requests for the giant-sized original […]

  6. […] was and what a retrogaming video game system might be, in a piece imaginatively entitled, “Defining Retrogaming.”  My argument was that to be considered a retrogaming system, a console cannot be a lastgen […]

  7. For me it’s not really about the system, it’s about the game.

  8. […] the rest of the article at Define Retrogaming define, gaming, retro, […]

  9. Let’s define the terms “classic” and “retro” first.
    “classic” is everything that survived over centuries, while “retro” can be considered as “something out of a decade”. People that only play games from the 80s, or 90s play “retro games”, or “games released during a decade” I think it doesn’t matter it a game was released on Genesis or PS2, as long as these game were released inside a “decade”. Once the next console generation and gaming technologie is established, then even games made in the “Zeros” (2000-2010) can be considered as “retro”.
    Just my two cents.

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