BRAND NEW SAME OLD - November 1996
we force science down the throats of those that have no taste for it? Is it our duty to
drag them kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century? I am afraid that it
- Sir George Porter, 1986
Look, it really is time we got over this. Think with me for a minute. Think about Independence Day, and then think about Citizen Kane. Think about Oasis, and then think about Bill Haley And The Comets. Think about Beatles Anthology Volume 3, then think about The White Album. Worked it out yet? No, I didn't think so.
Only in one business is cultural history regarded as an entirely separate entity, unconnected to present-day developments. Only in a business too stupid to have come up with a universal, compatible hardware format in 20 years of in-fighting could that cultural history be regarded as a terrible embarrassment, to be derided at every turn. Only in one business could there be a Year Zero every two years, where the past is ritually burned to ashes and everything started again from scratch. Is anyone else tired of this yet?
"Retro" gaming is, as really ought to be obvious to anyone with even a microscopic glimmer of common sense, just another branch of "modern" gaming. It's not some freaky weirdo deviant thing indulged in by a totally different group of people to the ones who buy Tekken 2 - a videogame is a videogame, however old it is. The debate surrounding retro, and indeed the fact that there's a debate at all, is just another symptom of the horrible mess we've all managed to get ourselves into. Consider this recent quote from Official Playstation Magazine:
"Robotron is... a fine shoot-'em-up but the longevity just isn't that great" (review of Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits)
Hmm. Yes. So that'll be why, after being continually ported to new formats for FOURTEEN YEARS, Robotron is still riding high in the charts (on said compilation), and being freshly reprogrammed in a graphically-tarted-up style as Robotron X, then?
(By the way, can it really be true, as indicated in this month's issue of said mag, that out of 132 new Playstation games released last year, no fewer than 121 of them were, and here I quote, "worth buying"? Having personally spent rather less than the £5,445 that would have cost on PS games last year, it's making me feel like a bit of a consumer lightweight. Still, hooray for independence, eh? I digress.)
Why are we all so embarrassed about this? Read Empire and you won't hear some cretin slagging off Citizen Kane for being old and black-and-white and not having any great special effects in it, so why do we have to put up with it every single time anyone reviews a retro game release? (And on a related theme, incidentally, if I see one more fat loser in that foul abortion Escape going "Ooh, isn't playing games really sad compared to drinking beer and having girlfriends?", I'm going to go round there and scream "WELL WHY DON'T YOU GET A JOB WRITING ABOUT SOMETHING YOU BASTARD WELL LIKE, YOU DISMAL SMUG-FACED WANKER?" right into their ears over and over again until my voice gives out. Fair warning.) Really, isn't it about time the videogames business stopped being embarrassed about videogames? Does anyone ever remember reading in Vox "Well, I really liked this album, I must be dead sad and not nearly as cool as people who drink lots of beer"? When was the last time you caught 90 Minutes going "Ooh, I like football, but not as much as I like looking at naked pictures of Jo Guest in pornographic magazines, obviously"?
Rhetorical questions, there.
(Although, I suppose, there was that article in this fortnight's Smash Hits about "Why Drinking Beer And Smoking Dope Is Better Than Boyzone". Oh no, hang on. There wasn't. My mistake.)
Look, it's this simple:
1. There's no such thing as "retrogaming". There's just gaming. Why do we continually have to pretend it's just been invented this morning? What's wrong with having a history?
2. It humiliates me, as someone involved in the games business, to have to point this out, but it appears to still be necessary: A good game is a good game however old it is. A crap game is a crap game however new it is. And vice versa.
3. Since when were age and looks any kind of guide to quality? Is Michael Portillo inherently "better" than Nelson Mandela because he's younger and wears smarter suits?
4. Of course Space Invaders was crap. Of course Ridge Racer is better than Pole Position. But Way Of The Exploding Fist is (is, not was) also better than Rise Of The Robots. Operation Wolf is better than Revolution X. What's your point, exactly?
5. If you don't like videogames, then why not piss off and leave writing about them to people who do, eh?
"Retro" my fat arse.
"I don't think I agree. I think maybe Hell is a place. But you don't have to stay anywhere forever."
- Edwin Paine, 1901-14