Tuesday, January 5, 2016

How I became a retro gamer

Retro gamers weren't always retro gamers, you know.

I cut my teeth on DOS and NES games in the late 80's, which were modern at the time. It would have been odd for me to be playing Atari 2600 stuff at the time   :)

This article will explain my progression of gaming from the beginning through the time that retro games became more important than new games. Lots of screenshots at first, but there's more text below...

Some of my early favorites were formative stuff like:

Miner 2049er (PC, DOS)

Super Mario Bros (NES)

Contra (NES)

In the early 90's I continued progressing with SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, and PC games. Some examples:

Super Ghouls & Ghosts (SNES)

Kid Chameleon (Genesis)

Soul Star (Sega CD)

Hocus Pocus (PC, DOS)

In the mid 90's I started playing more modern 3D games, such as

Descent (PC, DOS) (My #1 game of all time)

Doom (PC, DOS)

Hexen (PC, DOS)

Magic Carpet (PC, DOS)

Lemmings 3D (PC, DOS)

At the time of me playing those 3D games, many of my friends were still mostly into 2D games, so I actually thought myself "more progressive" than they were (at the time). [In retrospect that was a pretty lame/elitist view to have and I regret it]

Later on those friends finally caught up with the 3D trend and we had many great LAN parties with games like:

Quake (PC)

Unreal Tournament (PC)

However I remember one particular instance around 1999 at a LAN party where I was sitting pretty in a comfortable recliner playing 3D games on my PC, and over in the corner were a few of my friends playing this weird 2D game on a small CRT TV. It was about a vampire guy running through a castle and killing all these enemies with a sword. It looked exceedingly boring to me at the time and I wondered why they were even wasting their time playing it.

That game was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

---How little did I know at the time---

In the late 90's early 2000's, Racing games became a bigger thing for me, stuff like

Colin Mcrae 2 (PC)

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2 (PC)

Also some favorites were

Rune (PC) (for the multiplayer)

Thief (PC)

In addition to those, I was still playing some amount of 1st person shooters, and also now spending some time playing rhythm games like DDR.

Some time around 2002 or 2003, a friend commented to me and said "I just got done playing Gameboy Advance while laying down on the couch". And it got me to thinking, how awesomely comfortable that would be.

So I did a little research on handheld systems, and I discovered a Korean homebrew handheld called GP32. It could play emulators like NES and other 8 bit systems. This sounded pretty interesting, I could re-live some of the games of my youth, all while on the go! So I bought a GP32 in the summer of 2003. It was neat and good, but unfortunately I got the one without a backlit screen, so it was difficult to see the screen very well. Because of this I decided to sell it that fall.

In 2004, I continued playing many AAA PC games, I call it "The Year of the First Person Shooter". I played an unusually high number of FPS games that year, and also finished them all (which is rare for me).

That year, I played and beat:

Painkiller (PC)

Far Cry (PC) (This was my favorite game this year)

Doom 3 (PC)

Half Life 2 (PC) (Yes I liked Far Cry better than HL2)

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (PC)

I also played a bit of Thief 3, and Chrome, but didn't finish those.

After 2004, I was totally burned out on First Person Shooters.

In 2005, this thing called PSP came out. There also existed a handheld called Tapwave Zodiac, Nintendo DS, and of course the GP32 with a backlit screen was still an option. So I decided I was finally gonna get a handheld gaming console with the intention of playing some emulation on it, and some of the games designed for the handheld itself. It took me a little while to decide which one I was gonna get.

Once homebrew stuff became available for PSP around July 2005, I decided I was definitely gonna get a PSP (In retrospect, excellent decision and I don't regret it). Those first months with the PSP I played some PSP games, but also quite a bit of NES, Gameboy, Master system and other older consoles on emulation. SNES became fullspeed soon after that. For some reason it took about a year before there was a decent Genesis emulator on PSP, but eventually I was playing a ton of Genesis games on PSP as well. It turned out I was using the PSP for MOSTLY emulation and retro gaming.

The PSP remained relevant for a long time, into the 2010's.

But to continue the original timeline...

In 2006, I got a Geforce 7800 GS AGP for my PC, which was one of the fastest AGP video cards they ever made. I played a bit of Oblivion

 which had some really sweet graphics, but also got heavily into Trackmania Nations

 and played a lot of that in a clan online for the next year or two.

Around the summer of 2007, as I was going through the collection of Genesis games, I started getting a keen interest in shmups. In Fall 2007, I finally discovered bullet hell games such as

Dodonpachi (Arcade)

Terra Diver / Soukyuu Gurentai (Arcade)

Which led to the discovery of PC Doujin shmups like

Flew Fighter (PC)

Warning Forever (PC)

Blue Wish Resurrection (PC)

Shmup mania was in full effect, and my life would never be the same.

From 2008, I was using the PSP to play arcade shmups in emulation (CPS2 emulator) , and I would practice shmups at work on the PSP, and then I would make playthrough attempts at home on the PC. For example I 2CC'ed Gigawing by doing this. The PSP also had a couple interesting homebrew shmup ports like Noiz2sa and Rrootage. Great stuff!!

All the while it was being firmly established that I LOVED 2D platformers in general.

From 2007-2008 on, I was playing new AAA PC titles less and less. I think the last new mainstream PC games I cared about when they were new were STALKER and Bioshock, and they ran a bit slow on my computer.

After that point, I no longer spent money to regularly upgrade my PC's graphics card. I was no longer "in the race".

I bought a Playstation 2 (two) in 2008 so I could play some of the shmup ports for it. PS2 In 2008. PS3 had already been out for several years at this point.

I never bought a PS3 or Xbox 360 or anything newer.    Our family does have a Wii but I don't use it for my personal gaming.

So I would say the year I "crossed over" from regular gamer to "retro gamer" was 2007.

You know what?

It's great!

Now I enjoy indie PC games, and older games from arcade and all the older console systems. I also enjoy a lot of android games because many of them are simple pick-up-and-go type games with an action oriented retro feel. And you know the neatest/weird thing is that "retro games" are always getting newer. As time progresses eventually even PS3 will be considered 'retro' and I'll check that out then, but with no pressure to feel obligated to "Keep up with the chase".


One of the things that really helped me to enjoy retro games even more, is after I read this article about arcade culture. I've already mentioned it in the first post of this blog. Although I don't agree with everything he says or his condescending tone, it really did get me turned on to the idea of limiting the amount of credits that you put into the game. In other words, not abusing savestates. When you abuse savestates, you make the game too easy and take away the challenge/fun and sense of accomplishment of beating the game at its intended difficulty.

For example: If you play a MAME arcade game with unlimited credits, and blast through the entire game, it is not very rewarding. Whereas if you limit yourself to a few credits and get gradually better, it is very rewarding when you finally complete it.

Exactly the same if if you are using a ton of savestates on a NES platformer, saving multiple times during the middle of levels, before hard jumps, etc, then it is taking all the challenge and reward out of the game.

If you want to "detox" yourself from savestates, first try just by only saving at the beginning of each level. And then eventually never.   :)

In conclusion: New games suck and old games rule.  Just kidding, but I can't think of anything more profound or succinct to conclude with at this point   :)   Good thing only one other person reads this blog.


  1. Interesting. Makes me want to write mine as well.

    I also found Far Cry better than HL2, in fact it might well be my favorite FPS of all times. I finished it twice, the first time in normal, the second time with the highest difficulty. Coincidently, FC has no savestates, just a few checkpoints per level. What a blast...

    Speaking of FPS, how about we try a retro FPS sometime? What about an anaglyph version of quake http://www.moddb.com/downloads/anaglyph-stereo-quake ? :)

    1. I would love to hear your story! Please post sometime!

      Dude that's crazy that we both enjoyed Far Cry so much. I had forgotten that it didn't have savestates (?). I think I might have patched mine to where it did. But I don't remember for sure. Maybe I didn't, and maybe that challenge of having to go back is part of what made it so memorable :)

      Also there was the hang gliding levels. I remember on one of those hang gliding levels, I think it was the second time you get to a hang glider and it is near the beginning of the level. You are so high up you can fly practically miles away. I would just fly and see how far I could go on the island... Then I would reload and do it again. I did it for hours. It was so much fun :)

  2. The official website of stereo quake (supports quake 2 as well, I never played it) seems to be http://www.benryves.com/products/stereoquake

    1. Awesome. I'd definitely be up for this. I don't know if you remember but 2 years ago I was playing a lot of Quake 1 on the Macbook :)

      I guess I'll have to invest in some Red/Blue glasses, although they're not very expensive. It appears that red/cyan is the best as far as colors go, because the cyan lets you see blue and green both.

      Sweet, I found a pair on ebay for 99 cents free shipping, and they're plastic, not those crappy paper kind:


      Will probably take a few weeks to get here from China, but that's OK because we're still on R-Type Leo round right now.

      Oh also I read this:

      r_stereo_separation is "4" ["4"] separation distance of eyes in the world (negative values are only useful for cross-eyed viewing)
      r_stereo_sidebyside is "0" ["0"] side by side views for those who can't afford glasses but can afford eye strain (note: use a negative r_stereo_separation if you want cross-eyed viewing)

      Apparently you can set it to "side by side" view, similar to those stereoscopic images or stereograms. But based on the fact that I have to make those images really small or far away to view them, I think my Quake would be too small to enjoy it if I did that :) Eye strain for sure.

      So now the question is: Do we just play original Quake levels, or do we play some custom levels too?

      2 years ago I played some really good custom levels. Tons of them on https://www.quaddicted.com/

      I vote that maybe we play one of the original level sets (not all 4) and then a couple of custom levels :) What do you think?

    2. Also no savestates except for maybe at the beginning of each level :) :) :)

  3. I have the same glasses you've ordered, it is a good choice. No savestates except at the beginning of each level for training, yeah!

  4. I like to read your blog how to become a retro gamer. A lots of latest gadgets now to play and for retro gamer.