There was once a time before anyone was referred to as a hardcore gamer. People played games and there was no need to label them otherwise. Girls were girls, men were men and “Mario” was a red and brown blur on your TV screen.
However, video games, the people who play them and the way they are played, have changed quite a bit since Mario burst onto the scene with his red plumber overalls and funky ‘stache about years 30 years ago.
Timothy Matthews and his friends remember when video gaming was much less about complicated moves and more about fun. He and a few of his friends get together on bi-weekly basis to re-play and re-live games from years past.
“In my experience, it’s the simplest games that I play with friends the most often,” he said. “They are very easy to just pick up and play and have fun.” Matthews points out that not all of his friends still regularly game. It can be hard to find new games that everyone can get into easily and have fun with.
His friend Anthony Sciortino explains it the best, “not all of us have the same skills when it comes to new games, which makes playing together boring.”
I watched the group as they played Ice Hockey, released in 1988 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and then later when they played NHL 09 for the Playstation 3 (PS3).
It was obvious that what the little NES game lacked in complexity, it made up for in accessibility. In every match the games were always exciting and fast paced. Every goal was celebrated by those who watched, eagerly anticipating their chance to challenge the winner.
With NHL 09, the matches were more visually appealing, but also displayed the dramatic difference in ability between the skilled players and the less so. There certainly wasn’t much as much enthusiasm about playing against the one player who won every matchup (he was the only owner of the game).
However, the biggest complaint about old games, the gamers said, is that, like Ice Hockey, it can only support two players. Their favorite game to play, however, Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64 (N64), allows for more than two players.
“It’s fairly advanced for an old game, and we’ve all played it before,” said Sciortino. “We can play it with four people and never get fed up because every match-up is unique.”
His Mario Tennis doubles partner, David Piperni added, “It requires skill to do the intended move at the right time, but even if you’ve never played before, you can still learn the two button basics and hold your own after only playing for a few minutes.”
Old game controllers typically only have two buttons, as “jump” and “fire” were the only commands anyone really needed back then. Nowadays controllers can have up to a dozen buttons, and shooting a virtual flying turtle with a virtual fireball has never been trickier.
Although having fun is important when it comes to playing games, the gamers all confessed that the number one reason they love playing old games is quite simple: nostalgia.
Jason Di Marco fondly remembers playing video games all those years ago. “When I play Super Mario Brothers, or another game I haven’t played in ages, I see myself playing it as a kid again and even visualize where I was while playing the game.”
Nintendo knows nostalgia can be a powerful selling point for people. The video game giant reported that as of the end of 2007, they had sold over $33 million worth of titles over their Virtual Console, or VC. The VC is a program included in the new Nintendo Wii system. It allows players to download old games from the original console NES up until the N64 generation of video games.
Matthews owns over a dozen of these virtual titles. He and his friends it’s usually replay these most of these classic gems through his Wii system. But they would still play their favorite game, Mario Tennis 64, on the original console. “It’s not out on VC yet, but even if it were, we’d still play it on the original system” said Matthews. “It just feels more natural.”
After having taken this trip down video game memory lane with them, I recommend dusting off that old Nintendo, Sega, or maybe even Atari system. Call a friend over and play. You might just find an old passion waiting to be rekindled.
Nintendo on your Computer
Playing your classic video games is fun and nostalgic. Having to pray they will start without having to blow repeatedly into the end of the cartridge over and over again is not (a classic way to fix a classic game). Luckily for classic video game lovers there is a way to avoid that frustration.
An emulator is a program that is used to mimic or simulate a video game console on a PC or Mac. There exists at least one emulator for nearly each video game console ever released from the Atari and Commodore 64 consoles of the late 70s, to the Playstation 2. These emulators only simulate the console’s function. In order to actually play video games with an emulator, a virtual copy of a game, known as a “read only memory image” or ROM image, must be loaded into the emulator application.
Although this may seem the ideal solution for playing dusty old technology from the past, there is a slight problem. While it is legal to have a video game console emulator it is illegal in Canada to possess and play a ROM that you did not create yourself from a cartridge you personally still own. So unless you already have a huge cache of old games or want to buy every classic game you want to play, this probably isn’t your best option.