The return of retro gaming

Photo: Francesco Ungaro via Pexels

It can’t have escaped your notice that there has been a real surge of interest in recent times to revisit the styles and experiences of the past. From old brands of confectionery that are now back in the shops to revivals, with a modern twist, of classic cars like the Mini and the Fiat 500, it seems we just can’t get enough of the past.

But then, nostalgia is a very powerful thing, taking us back to an older, simpler time when maybe we had more fun and far fewer responsibilities.

Plus, on the one hand, many people who are a little older now have the spare cash to spend on the sorts of things they simply couldn’t afford when they were younger, so they’re making up for lost time. On the other, there are whole new generations who want to buy into the old-school, and sometimes pretty niche, cool of the old days.

Today it’s also undeniable that there is a certain sameness all around us in everything from fashion to entertainment so the prospect of finding something that is a little bit different is undeniably attractive.

Going old school

Just as everyone thought that the digitization of music meant that the days of vinyl were over, the dominance of Sony and Microsoft seemed to have spelt the end for the simpler games of yesteryear. But, in both cases, this proved to be 100% wrong. It turns out there is still an enormous appetite for old-style games and even a strong desire to return to the traditional style of a console game.

In terms of the video games, it’s easy to see just why they have found a new audience. With many of today’s games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Dota requiring many hours to complete them, as well as being very complex to play, the simplicity of the old-style games is undoubtedly appealing.

After all, how much simpler it is to chase round on Pac-Man or clear sheet after sheet of advancing space invaders than to complete involved and challenging missions? The beautifully clear and simple graphics also make a very refreshing change from the finely detailed scenes of newer console games.

It also has to be said that there is a real sense of playful fun in many retro games while the modern alternatives tend to take themselves very seriously indeed. So, it’s hard to imagine that a game like Rollercoaster Tycoon, giving you the chance to build up your own theme-park empire or even Frogger would ever be created today.

Some gaming companies are re-introducing gaming consoles to play their games due to the increase in handheld games. – Photo: Caleb Oquendo via Pexels

Mobile magic

Another factor that has helped with the resurgence of retro gaming has been the increasing popularity of playing on mobile devices. The simplicity of the old-style games like Super Mario and his arch-rival Sonic the Hedgehog mean that they have made a simple transition to this format. With no need for complex controls and only needing a few spare minutes to play makes them a perfect fit.

It’s also proved to be a great opportunity for console-makers like Nintendo, Sega and even Atari to resurrect old devices for the 21st century to create a whole new market for themselves. It has even created a very vibrant market for vintage and reproduction arcade consoles, and which are marketed as being an essential addition to games rooms and man-caves everywhere. However, with most resellers of these machines demanding four-figure sums for them, they are obviously not for everyone.

Place your bets

Another industry that has been keen to exploit the retro craze is the online casino sector. Generally aiming to attract the 30+ demographic, there is plenty of scope to appeal in a number of ways. Some online casinos even consciously copy the style of the classic 1950s and 60s Las Vegas in their design and language while others include a mix of the old and the new. The one game that lends itself especially well to retro-styling is the online slot and you’ll find a huge selection of these on virtually every casino site.

The games themselves approach nostalgia in a number of ways and one of the most popular is in the use of comic book heroes from the past. The obvious logic is that players who remember enjoying the adventures of Batman or the Fantastic Four from their past are likely to be attracted to the games that feature them. Given the huge popularity of comic book movies, there often a tie-in to these too. This makes the games even more enjoyable as modern technology means that there are even opportunities to include clips from the movies themselves or snatches of dialogue from the soundtrack.

Then, in their purest form, there are the online slots that have been designed to be as close as possible to the machines that have been a permanent feature everywhere from pubs to amusement arcades over the year. For example, the traditional fruit machine has had a revamp by technology with providers now offering online fruit machines just like the retro classic with their fruits like plums, cherries and bells spinning on the three reels.

These are slots in which the symbols are familiar ones, and which have three reels with a single winning line, compared with the multiple ones featured on the more contemporary slots. Once again, it’s this simplicity that proves to be so appealing as the more involved slots can be quite hard to figure out if you’re new to them. It also means that the games are a little faster to play and the single possible winning line means the stakes are lower.

Slot games in particular are designed from retro machines such as classic fruit machines. Photo : Daria Sannikova via Pexels

The future of nostalgia

It might seem like nostalgia is a modern phenomenon, but it’s been with us almost forever. So, it’s fair to assume that, if anything, its appeal will become stronger and stronger as there is more to be nostalgic about.

So it’s fair to assume that in a couple of decades’ time, when gaming will probably be very different to how it is today, the next generation will be seeking out vintage PlayStation and Xbox’s – and you’ll be able to tell them all about how much better it was in the old days!

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