Sega Retrospective

Sega Retrospective
The Genesis Effect

Russ Pitts | 25 Jan 2011 13:52
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"How you'd exult if I could put you back
Six hundred years, blot out cosmogony,
Geology, ethnology, what not ...
And set you square with Genesis again."
- Robert Browning, poet

You don't plan to fall in love. It just happens. It happened to me once, a long time ago ... Well, it's happened a lot, actually, most recently a few years ago when I met my wife, but let's stay focused here. We're talking about the decade before the turn of the century, and the time I fell in love without even wanting to. Without even suspecting it might be on the horizon. Without another person, even.

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OK, let's back up a bit. Like a lot of folks, I had a Nintendo NES machine in my bedroom when I was younger. It wasn't my first game machine - nor would it be my last - but it held a special place in my heart as I struggled to find myself during those often cruel and incomprehensible high school years. I had friends and extracurricular interests, so I was frequently out of the house, but on rainy days, when friends were out of town, or when that one girl who last week had meant the world to me was no longer returning my calls - I had the NES and its vast, exhilarating catalog of 8-bit game experiences.

I grew up with games. We always had them around. We had a Magnavox Odyssey, a Fairchild Channel F, a ColecoVision and various rudimentary handheld games with flickering LCD lights. When I wasn't gaming at home, I was in an arcade, dropping quarters into Dragon's Lair or Star Wars. Or I'd be at my friend Doug's, playing Gunship on his Commodore 64.

Games, in other words, were always with me, but the NES was different somehow. These were the years when video arcades still represented the pinnacle of gaming, and the NES ports were often pale imitations. But the new 8-bit console offered something the arcades never had: long-term, immersive experiences. NES save game codes and cartridges with batteries gave console gamers like me our first glimpse of multi-session gaming, and there was no going back.

A game could take hours to finish, but you could play it minutes at a time. We take this feature for granted now, but at the time it was wholly new and radically changed the way we played and the way games themselves were made.

This carry-over allowed games to evolve into something more than a waste of a few minutes at a time on a Saturday, or something to try to rush through in one gulp like Halloween candy. They became truly immersive experiences, capable of sustaining interest over long periods of time, like books. Experiences that carried over from session to session, day to day, year to year. They became something to savor, to ponder and to relish. Something to love.

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