With more than thirty years in the mainstream consciousness, gaming has come a long way. From humble beginnings, the gaming industry has evolved to be worth more than video and music combined, with no signs of slowing down.
So closely tied to evolving hardware, it's only natural that the games would see significant evolution over time, but this evolution hasn't been as linear as we might think. Instead, the concept of the retro genre has continued to be one of the most consistently popular, and this still holds today. It's an interesting development, and one we feel worthy of investigating.
When Retro was Retro
Of course, at the time of the release of classic retro games, they were considered cutting-edge. When Pac-Man arrived in 1980, it was a technological marvel, and the same could be said for later home console classics like 1985's Super Mario Bros.
These pushed the boundaries of what the average person thought computer systems could do, and in doing so they opened up an entirely new world of opportunities. It was here that that the foundations of classic genres would be laid, with influences far beyond what the developers expected.
Modern Retro Titles
In the modern-day, the term retro in video games can mean two things. It either refers to these classic games released before the new millennium, or it refers to more modern titles that reflect retro styles and sensibilities. For many players, a game like Quake is a fine example of the former, where a retro-throwback FPS game like DUSK illustrates the latter.
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It's also worth noting that for some long-standing series, the line between these two concepts is blurred. Tetris is a strong example of this, released in its famous NES version back in 1989. More recently, Tetris Effect updates this formula with more engaging graphics and sound, but it fundamentally maintains the same original style at its core.
Outside of video games, similar throwbacks also occur in the related field of online casino games. Here, experiences like the Starburst free spins UK no deposit again lean on retro styles and sensibilities, while updating the surrounding framework with cutting-edge new technology.
This evolution extends to the websites which host these games, which bolster the attractiveness of retro-inspired titles with the like of free spins and deposit bonuses to further player engagement.
A Question of Why
If you were to only listen to the claims made by the mouthpieces of AAA gaming companies, then you would assume that pushing the most advanced graphics and physics simulations was necessary for a game to succeed. A look at lists of the best-selling and most highly-rated video games of all time would then tell you otherwise.
Not only is Tetris the most popular game of all time, but modern retro-inspired titles from both major and indie developers continue to find themselves on players' most-wanted lists.
At its core, the reason for this idea is simple – more complicated games don't mean more enjoyable games. This is a double-edged sword of modern gaming, where the immense potential of current hardware often makes developers believe they have to push everything to its limit. Rather than setting a wide scope, however, enjoyable games are often built around leveraging strong but basic systems.
Let's look back at the original Doom as an example, which was released in 1993. The computers of this time could barely manage real-time 3D, which helped give Doom's prodigious engine a leg-up, sure. Yet, for nearly three decades past that point, Doom is still regarded as one of the best playing games in history.
Yes, Doom had to be simple, but the developers knew this. The team at ID Software used the limitations of the technology of the time to parlay elegance, to make a streamlined system that perfectly understood what made gameplay fun. Like Tetris before it, or like any number of real sports, it was about putting the right parts in place and working from there. In essence, this is the retro credo, and it's an evergreen landscape ripe for exploration.
With the power of modern systems, very few developers have the means to push games to their theoretical technical limit. Then, as retro gaming has shown us, they don't need to. For many of us, gaming is about understanding restraint, and not giving into unsustainable excess. In the long-term, the implications on the biggest studios that chase ever-growing titles could be problematic, but for everyone else, the future is clear, and it could easily be found in the past.