David Bowie Turned 65 Today…

Today is January 8, 2012, and this is the day David Bowie turned 65 years old.  For those of us who have been listening to his music for decades, this is a sobering thought.  Mortality, something that seemed so far away even just a few years ago, is now a concept that seems much more concrete.  65 years old:  Grandpa Bowie.

David Bowie, Master of Style.

Putting aside his wonderful and prolific musical career, David Bowie has also been an actor with an impressive resume.  Among his many roles, he’s been John the doomed vampire in The Hunger, Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth, Nikola Tesla in The Prestige, and the voice of Lord Royal Highness in Spongebob Squarepants.  His distinct appearance (his eyes appear to have different colors, though really one is permanently dilated from an injury suffered while fighting over a girl) bring a sense of otherness to his roles.   Bowie also dabbled in gaming, involving himself in the storyline, game design process, soundtrack, and acting in Omikron: The Nomad Soul, which was released in both Windows and Dreamcast format.

Box art for Omikron: The Nomad Soul

He’s had a great life. Married to Iman (who played the hot shapechanger in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), with talented children (his son directed Moon, a movie I enjoyed very much), a string of hit songs and a successful acting career, David Bowie is a man who reached for the brass ring and kept it clutched tightly to his chest.   And although I wish him a Happy Birthday (and laboring under absolutely no illusions that he will ever receive my well-wishes), I cannot stop thinking this one thought: David Bowie is 65 years old; where did the time go?

It’s odd what the individual triggers are that set us on paths of somewhat melancholic reflections of our own mortality.  I can’t say that I’ve followed any individual performer or artist with any sense of fanaticism, and couldn’t tell you any details that might be found by a thorough perusal of any of the gossip periodicals that can be found in the narrow aisles at the supermarket checkout.  Yet the fact that David Bowie turned 65 today has impacted with the force of a falling Sputnik satellite.  Somehow I’ve gotten older.  When did that happen?

Ending a blog entry with a morose outlook is not my style, so let me leave with an answer from the birthday boy himself: “Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.”  Indeed.


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!

10 Years Ago – Great Video and PC Games Released in 2000

Ten years ago, in 2000, the world the world was entering a new millennium.  George W. Bush was elected President of the United States, while Vladimir Putin was elected President of Russia.  Foreshadowing the evils of what was to come, Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the U.S.S. Cole.  On the brighter side, Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to make an official papal visit to Israel, while the International Space Station welcomed its first crewmembers, officially marking the age of a persistent presence of mankind in space. Meanwhile, India welcomed newborn citizen number one billion, while US federal agents returned Elián González to his father in Cuba.  Theatres filled with people watching movies like X-MEN, Gladiator, and Cast Away. And perhaps as an official response for being on the losing side of the United States v. Microsoft antitrust ruling, Microsoft releases Windows ME to an unsuspecting public.

While world events unfolded, gamers still whittled their days away playing some classic games.  A few of the notable games released in North America in 2000 included:

  • American McGee’s Alice (PC)
  • Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Ahm (PC)
  • Banjo Tooie (Nintendo 64)
  • Chrono Cross (PlayStation)
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (PC)
  • Deus Ex (PC)
  • Diablo II (PC)
  • Escape From Monkey Island (PC)
  • Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation)
  • Icewind Dale (PC)
  • MechWarrior 4: Vengeance (PC)
  • Perfect Dark (Nintendo 64)
  • Resident Evil: Codename Veronica (Dreamcast)
  • Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Nintendo 64)
  • The Operative: No One Lives Forever (PC)
  • The Sims (PC)

Looking at that short list I’d say that PC gamers had more than enough gaming goodness to keep them occupied through the year!

X-MEN was one of the great movies of 2000.