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Retro Gaming

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"The gamers say we are 'retro', which I think means 'old, but cool.'"
Ralph, Wreck-It Ralph

An interest in playing older video games. Retro games have had an upswing in interest in the last 10 years as the average gamer gets older, and computers have become sufficiently powerful to emulate earlier systems at full speed.

Retro gaming generally plays out in a 2-D game space, often offering gameplay with no determined conclusion other than loss of all lives, often using a simple numerical score as its game goal. Controls are likely to be simple and non-analog with only one or two fire buttons. For this reason retro gaming has recently become more prominent on mobile phones where these attributes are advantageous to the platform, a platform which encourages simple gaming experiences that are quick to learn, use simple controls and are easy to pick up and put down.


Retro gaming, being the infancy of video gaming, was the start of many many gaming tropes and genres. Shoot 'em Up, Beat 'em Up, Platform Game, Puzzle Game... virtually every genre started here, including 3D gaming.

The first perennial question for retro gaming is, "What counts as retro?". Diehard older retro gamers may insist that only pre-crash games and systems count, while more liberal definitions have a moving point of retro as any system at least 10 years old. Most people seem to pin their preferred retro gaming system to "whatever I was playing when I was 12". For some, Retraux Gaming also counts.

The second perennial question for retro gamers is "real hardware versus emulators", generally a question of authentic look and feel opposed to the convenience of having 10,000 games for a dozen systems available at your fingertips. Earlier systems relied on effects caused by the fuzziness inherent in their output to allow the illusion of more colours on screen and smoother transitions between colours than was strictly possible for the hardware, meaning that an emulator may not show a retro video game as the makers intended. Some very old systems are nearly impossible to emulate, as they were based on analog systems. Or may use hardware that may not be emulated at the moment. For example, for someone who grew up with a computer with a particular sound card,note  not having the sound card emulated in DOSBox is a good enough reason to go and splash money on the hardware route for some because "the game will not sound like how I remembered it".note  Also, sometimes action games don't work as well in emulation, due to various factors that can contribute to input/output latency;note  this is often made worse by attempts to sync the screen refresh to that of the monitor in order to avoid tearing and juddering. On the flip side, plugging an old console (or a modern console, for that matter) into a modern TV can also add significant lag due to image processing, depending on the TV and its settings.


It is retro gaming that often supplies the sound effects in television and movies to denote that video games are being played, regardless of the fact that Halo does not sound remotely like Galaga or Pac-Man.

Home of the Underdogs is a 'digital museum' of underappreciated games, the vast majority of which are fifteen to twenty years old. (Its previous incarnation at became defunct a few years ago due to an apparent lack of funding.)

The Retronauts podcast at is dedicated to discussion of retro gaming.

There are now museums set up around the world dedicated to capturing the history and examples of the early years of videogaming. Much like early Doctor Who tapes, videogame development was thought of as disposable, and little to no effort was made to conserve source code, original artwork and other associated products of the process, with games as recent as 2002's Kingdom Hearts having all its development resources lost. Further, early (and not so early) storage media are notoriously unreliable, and efforts are being made to transfer early digital artifacts into more stable form.


In the mid-New Tens, the Internet Archive began several projects to preserve early video games in danger of being lost. These projects, which allow for in-browser emulation, include the Internet Arcade for arcade games and archives of MS-DOS and Windows 3.x games.


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