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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
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:
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!