Retro-Colored Glasses

Retro-Colored Glasses

Kyle Orland wonders if it's possible to love a console that came so long before your own first gaming experience.

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The way I see it, we can't compare old game systems to classic works of art like Beethoven or Shakespeare, not yet at least. The video game medium is still early in its development, so trying to view Atari like one of the classics is like trying to say one of your favorite works of literature is caveman drawings. Granted, the video game medium is evolving rapidly and I know there are already games we can have a newer generation enjoy. I, for instance, started with a Sega Genesis, but I have gone back and played Super Mario Bros. 2, for example, and loved it.

We already have classics in our relatively new medium, but I really don't think Atari games deserve to be among them.

I cant appreciate ps1 era games. I had a 64 and am old enought to grow up with an NES. But the games that I didnt play younger I cannot go back to now. PS+ had Medievil for free last week and I thought, cool that game is supposed to be classic.

Mother of God that shit was ugly. I could not play more then 2 minutes. But I can go back and play other ugly as sin games from the same era in my ancient n64 collection...

If you really want the 2600 experience, grab 3 friends, a lot of alcohol and play Warlords.

Also worth mentioning is the shooter Vanguard, Sea Quest, and the groundbreaking gameplay of Cosmic Ark.

You simply cannot detach yourself from what you know now, even cheap, low cost indie games come with at least a certain layer of polish on them.

I grew up with a commodore64, moving onto a SNES, there was simply no comparison. The same with snes->sega saturn->N64->ps2->ps3, every upgrade renders the previous as good as obsolete. save for a few true gems, personal favorites and nostalgic few.

There is a game design difference, but the part about presentation getting in the way in modern games is bang on. There's so much crap going on now that it's hard to keep track of what is killing you when. My biggest gripe with old Atari games is the actual control, not necessarily the design differences from the NES era. Those joysticks were tough to move right until you got the hang of it. For example, if I play those games on MAME with a gamepad, they feel immediately more responsive. If the control is responsive, it removes that incredibly frustrating "the bad controls got me" excuse for dying, which I really think kills more games than people realize.

Assault
Chopper Command
Hero
were the games into which I sunk the most time. I'm not sure if they'd still hold up though. I agree with Dorkmaster in that control was the biggest issue. I learned to get better at the old games but they still never felt right. I might even say nostalgia is clouding your thoughts on NES. Yes the games as games were better, but even back then the NES controller felt cramped and the onscreen characters unresponsive. Having played so many more fluid games I find it maddening to try an NES game with its laggy button presses.

rembrandtqeinstein:
If you really want the 2600 experience, grab 3 friends, a lot of alcohol and play Warlords.

Also worth mentioning is the shooter Vanguard, Sea Quest, and the groundbreaking gameplay of Cosmic Ark.

God, I love Warlords. It's a dream of mine to have a cocktail table of Warlords.

You were clearly a fan of the Imagic games. :) Loooooved Cosmic Ark, played the crap out of that one. Pitfall, Pitfall 2, Maze Craze, Adventure, and Barnstorming were my favorites. Chopper Command was great, too.

Susan Arendt:

rembrandtqeinstein:
If you really want the 2600 experience, grab 3 friends, a lot of alcohol and play Warlords.

Also worth mentioning is the shooter Vanguard, Sea Quest, and the groundbreaking gameplay of Cosmic Ark.

God, I love Warlords. It's a dream of mine to have a cocktail table of Warlords.

You were clearly a fan of the Imagic games. :) Loooooved Cosmic Ark, played the crap out of that one. Pitfall, Pitfall 2, Maze Craze, Adventure, and Barnstorming were my favorites. Chopper Command was great, too.

When I saw the rainbow silver game cartridge I knew it was a quality product. Too bad the company never went anywhere.

And the cops and robbers mode of Maze Crazy on the hardest difficulty was glorious.

rembrandtqeinstein:

Susan Arendt:

rembrandtqeinstein:
If you really want the 2600 experience, grab 3 friends, a lot of alcohol and play Warlords.

Also worth mentioning is the shooter Vanguard, Sea Quest, and the groundbreaking gameplay of Cosmic Ark.

God, I love Warlords. It's a dream of mine to have a cocktail table of Warlords.

You were clearly a fan of the Imagic games. :) Loooooved Cosmic Ark, played the crap out of that one. Pitfall, Pitfall 2, Maze Craze, Adventure, and Barnstorming were my favorites. Chopper Command was great, too.

When I saw the rainbow silver game cartridge I knew it was a quality product. Too bad the company never went anywhere.

And the cops and robbers mode of Maze Crazy on the hardest difficulty was glorious.

To say nothing of the "squish" noise when you got caught. God, I love that noise.

The art in the games of the 2600 is the gameplay itself and the experience that it gave you, not how pretty it looked. Look at the popularity of the casual games of today, sure they look better, but gameplay wise are they all that different than the 2600 in terms of gameplay?

Angry Birds would be an example. The concept is simple, break stuff to kill pigs, then try to get 3 stars. The gameplay mechanic is simple enough that anyone can play it, much like a game on the 2600. And it has a score system, like a lot of casual games do. Does it look better, well yeah it better but at it's core it's the same type of game that you would have seen on the 2600, and that's the beauty of the 2600 and that age, the simplicity and addictive nature of the classics of the era, the same principles carry on today.

This is a great article. I'd like to see more of Kyle Orland's writing on the Escapist and will look out for it.

It kind of got me wondering if in 20 years' time someone will write a similar article about the Playstation 2.

SoopaSte123:
The way I see it, we can't compare old game systems to classic works of art like Beethoven or Shakespeare, not yet at least. The video game medium is still early in its development, so trying to view Atari like one of the classics is like trying to say one of your favorite works of literature is caveman drawings. Granted, the video game medium is evolving rapidly and I know there are already games we can have a newer generation enjoy. I, for instance, started with a Sega Genesis, but I have gone back and played Super Mario Bros. 2, for example, and loved it.

We already have classics in our relatively new medium, but I really don't think Atari games deserve to be among them.

EXACTLY! Games are very young so there power pales in comparison to classical music or great literary works. Mankind has had the written word for so long, which is why books more easily conjure emotions and spark imagination. Interactive arts seem like they would be more powerful than any other medium but they are still very very young. So we just have to keep moving forward!

SoopaSte123:
The way I see it, we can't compare old game systems to classic works of art like Beethoven or Shakespeare, not yet at least. The video game medium is still early in its development, so trying to view Atari like one of the classics is like trying to say one of your favorite works of literature is caveman drawings. Granted, the video game medium is evolving rapidly and I know there are already games we can have a newer generation enjoy. I, for instance, started with a Sega Genesis, but I have gone back and played Super Mario Bros. 2, for example, and loved it.

We already have classics in our relatively new medium, but I really don't think Atari games deserve to be among them.

Damn, I was going to say that right down to the cave drawing analogy...

Anyway, to expand on that, what we consider 'classics' in literature and painting are arts that were already in existence for hundreds of years, refining what worked and what didn't. Video games, specifically the Atari 2600 was one of the first attempts to make a visual interactive medium.

I would find it hard to appreciate cave drawings for anything other than it being one of the first attempts at visual art as well.

I can agree with the rest of the article though, nice read.

I don't get this mindset, personally. I'm 16 years old and I love my Atari. The games aren't deep, or excessively complex, but I've sunk countless hours into Asteroids alone. Maybe I'm just weird.

Susan Arendt:
Pitfall, Pitfall 2, Maze Craze, Adventure, and Barnstorming were my favorites.

Barnstorming? I always thought Barnstorming was proof that even in the Atari 2600 era, a game could have gorgeous graphics and completely rubbish gameplay.

I do remember pouring hours into Maze Craze and Pitfall, though. (And now I'm all grown up, I've finally mastered the art of skipping across a pool of crocodiles!) River Raid was another favourite. Berzerk was excellent, but I was absolutely terrified of Evil Otto. In retrospect, Super Breakout has aged badly, but I have fond memories of playing it with my father, pressing Reset over and over again until we got a set of sounds effects that we liked. (For the uninitiated, Super Breakout had several different sets of sound effects, and it would choose one randomly and play a sample when you started a new game.)

And this all reminds me: I bought an Adventure cartridge just a few weeks ago, but I never got around to playing it. I think I should do that.

SoopaSte123:
The way I see it, we can't compare old game systems to classic works of art like Beethoven or Shakespeare, not yet at least. The video game medium is still early in its development, so trying to view Atari like one of the classics is like trying to say one of your favorite works of literature is caveman drawings. Granted, the video game medium is evolving rapidly and I know there are already games we can have a newer generation enjoy. I, for instance, started with a Sega Genesis, but I have gone back and played Super Mario Bros. 2, for example, and loved it.

We already have classics in our relatively new medium, but I really don't think Atari games deserve to be among them.

Yeah, I got a paper route as a kid to buy my 2600 and the period is akin to banging on rocks and scrawling pictures on cave walls. Simple, often effective, but too direct to ever be considered particularly interesting art from a non-historical perspective.

I consider the NES Era as more the telling tales around the fire of the medium. There's a narrative structure that's developed, but it's typically very short and to the point. It wouldn't be until CDs and DVDs took over that you started seeing in-depth story-telling becoming the norm.

There's exceptions. The early days of non-console gaming saw some of the best story telling in the medium with text adventures and it would be decades before video-based games would challenge them. I'm sure there's all sorts of gems in the NES era that do more than give you a two paragraph plot set-up, have you platform for several hours, then rescue the princess or kill your arch-enemy and get a paragraph or two of outro exposition.

Video games are a hard form of art to get a grip on. Every art medium is different and is evaluated in different ways. Games are still establishing just how the hell we will judge them. Music, paintings, literature, etc. have had hundreds of years to establish a set of criteria to judge them but games are young. Technology moves fast but the kind of cultural values that form criteria to judge art take time to develop. The notion of how we will see old games in the future, either as "classic" or "nostalgic junk" is still up in the air for now. Until the oldest generation of gamers begins to die off and the new guard takes the reigns its hard to say what the future will look like. As for now, lets just say "maximum nostalgia goggles!" and keep on going.

Sigh. I'm an 80's and 90's kid, but without the parents willing to purchase a snes or megadrive for me, I had my grandmothers atari 2600. And I put so many hours into it. I am glad to see titles like space invaders, bezerk and enduro getting honorable mentions, as these were big time sinks for me as well.

The other games I loved:
Pressure cooker: You were a chef conscripted to make hamburgers to an order, and the different ingredients would fly randomly from tubes at the side of the screen. Through timing and positioning you had to catch the items you needed and place them on the burger base and bun (did i mention this was on a moving conveyor belt?). Then you needed to take the completed burger and place it in the appropriate colored chute. Oh and the unwanted items? You had to bounce them back with your belly.

Tutenkhaman. An exploring adventure game, where you go through different levels of a tomb, dodging jackals, snakes and scorpions and seeking treasure.

Q-Bert: Surely you have seen this. Little orange man. Jumps up and down a pyramid shaped structure changing the colour of tiles.

Nostalgia is the primary force at play here. The 2600 was my first console and I have plenty of fond memories from it. I never got into the nintendo/genesis era, I had moved to PC and never owned any of those consoles.

Years later I have tried to get to grips with the allure of the old mario and sonic games. No dice, I can't be bothered to play them for more than a few minutes before I'm bored. I can't really say that I play my old 2600 with any regularity, but every couple of years I do drag it out and spend a happy afternoon playing my old library of games. I also own a few intellivisions now, when back then it was a most desired object I could not have, playing those today is sheer magic.

Whilst it is impossible to convey to anyone what your particular nostalgia does for you, I'll say this: There was never another jump ahead in games like the 2600. It was a jump from NOTHING to SOMETHING. Simple as it was, no leap after that ever felt that huge. Yes, you had to be there, but if you were, its unforgettable.

 

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