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The modern influence of retrogaming

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Many of us remember spending hours at a time playing retro, one-dimensional video games on arcade machines and home consoles as children. Today, these classic games are no longer exclusively for children, and – in spite of the incredible advances in technology and software, rendering the make-up of these gaming platforms outdated – they have in fact become a global and local cultural phenomenon, seeing scores of children and adults alike taking up the pastime of what is now known as “retrogaming”. 

What is it about these games that have seen their sustained popularity over the decades, in spite of the newer, faster and more sophisticated games being released in their thousands every year? “There is something quite intangible about the cult-hit phenomenon surrounding many of these games, which sees them still revered and enjoyed by gaming enthusiasts and novice players today,” says Timothy Kroon, General Manger of Resourcing at Entelect.

Retrogaming, also referred to as classic gaming or old-school gaming, describes the playing and collecting of vintage PC, console, and arcade games. “As most of the systems which these games were intended to run on are now obsolete, players either source the rare original hardware, or play them on newer devices through an emulation process,” explains Kroon. According to Kroon, most retro-games which have become re-popularised were created during the 1980s and 1990s. “Videogames were introduced to the consumer in the 1950s, but the 1970s are considered the golden age of videogames, seeing the release of still popular titles such as Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers, Sonic, Galazian and Frogger. In more recent times, these games regained their notoriety among consumers, driven by an appreciation for the simplicity and individualised challenge of many of these games, as well as a sense of nostalgia.
“This is particularly true for gaming enthusiasts as well as many members of the development and coding community, which forms part of why the annual Entelect R100K Challenge is traditionally based on a cult classic gaming platform,” Kroon continues. The increasingly popular R100K Challenge is an annual artificial intelligence (AI) coding competition aimed at novice to expert gamers and developers, in association with NAG and official product sponsor, Sony Mobile. Launched in 2012, the Challenge has been themed annually around a different retro-game, seeing previous years pay homage to Pac Man Battle City and Tron Legacy, while this year’s competition is based on the popular retro-game, Space Invaders.

“The personality types of our entrants, whether entering the novice or expert gamers and developer categories, show a great affiliation and appreciation for classic games, and we believe this is a key driver in the outstanding interest and enthusiasm the R100K Challenge has received since its inception,” he notes. Kroon goes on to say that these classic games have the added benefit of a simpler and more basic construction than the highly designed and complex games developed today. “This allows for easier modification and element development during the Challenge.”

The popularity of retrogaming shows no signs of slowing down, and the cultural phenomenon is permeating mainstream popular culture through various means such as social media, the press, and films such as the recently released retro-themed movie, Pixels. “As the retrogaming culture grows and spreads throughout new audiences and generations, the increasing rarity of original hardware also makes accessories more sought after by dedicated fans. With new technologies being developed on which these games can be played, a wide variety of classic game re-makes being released, creative retrogaming projects being driven through platforms such a Kickstarter, as well as the adoptions of classic game references in large events and corporate initiatives such as the Entelect R100K Challenge, the ability of these games to influence both modern culture and business continues to grow and present new opportunities,” Kroon concludes.