The Evolution of Retro Gaming – Then and Now!

Retro gaming. It is the playing of classic consoles, video games and arcade machines that have long since been discontinued. In the UK these people are called ‘retro gamers’ and elsewhere they are referred to as ‘classic gamers’ or ‘old school gamers’. Either way the end result is the same; a love of retro gaming.

To describe a gaming experience as retro can be pretty subjective with consoles always slipping into the realm of ‘old’ and seemingly obsolete; what is new today will one day be retro too. In the contemporary sense, retro game consoles vary widely from the Atari, the Commodore 64, the SNES and the Sega Mega Drive to the Nintendo 64, the Dreamcast and the Gameboy colour. Every gamer will have fond memories of one or more of these systems and there is one or more of these systems out there than I have space to mention. The old school arcade machines are a prosperous collectors market with the classics of Pacman, Space Invaders, Popeye and Donkey Kong fetching thousands online.

With the increase in popularity of retro gaming and the success of retro-compilations in the sixth and seventh generations in recent years, publisher began embracing modern retro-gaming. Releases like Mega Man 9 and Fantasy Zone 2 and imposed limitations on colour, resolution, and memory mimicked old school hardware in order to relive the retro experience.

Retro gaming has continued to go from strength to strength over the years and is now no less than a celebrated movement that goes far beyond any hard core gamer’s insular bedroom experience. Annual exhibits are organised all over the world that see gamers playing retro-tournaments, dressing up in over-the-top costumes and listening to live music from their favourite gaming franchises. One such exhibit is the Vancouver Retro Gaming Expo that has been running since 2012.

Gaming music has now become a serious movement itself, with popular radio stations like the UK’s Classic FM regularly playing video game music slots played by some of the world’s best orchestras. Nostalgic renditions of the classic themes tunes of Zelda, Final Fantasy and the more modern Skyrim are not unheard of. Gaming art has also become big business; The Smithsonian American Art Museum held a gaming art exhibition in 2012 and more recently The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University held one between 2015 and 2016.

Online games like Magic Portals that have took their inspiration from the old school, cartoon style image and the retro mono tunes are becoming increasingly popular and recent titles like Minecraft have made the pixelated and blocky look cool again amongst a new generation of gamers. Massive titles like Halo, Call of Duty and Assassins Creed have also recently took stabs at retro arcade gaming with seeming success. The retro market continues to remain a relevant aspect of the gaming world and will continue to grow.

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