RetroGame Start was created to help people who are getting into (or further into) retro computer and video gaming. The objective is to create the kind of helpful guides that I wish I had found when I was getting back into old school games. I’m also wanting to unpack meaningful thoughts around retro gaming as a phenomenon - why it’s popular, and some of the benefits of playing vintage computer and video games.
Having been a gamer all my life (since the 1970s), I got back into retro games more recently. Working with original hardware (consoles, computers, disk drives), and original media (cartridges, diskettes), I found that I needed to be a bit geeky and learn to troubleshoot. My Atari 2600 wasn’t working properly - it garbled up the output pretty badly. So I had to start learning about cleaning cartridges, and console contacts… then opening up the console and swapping parts to find what was having a problem. Turned out that I just needed to swap out a TIA chip - pretty easy actually. But then I had questions about the best way to connect to a TV (and what type of TV?). Then I bought an NES from Facebook Marketplace, and it had the blinking red light problem, but I had already learned the easy and cheap fix for that.
In the middle of this, I was wanting to know how to play Japanese games on my NES, and how to get better prices on consoles/games. With many of my questions, I found that I had to do a lot of Googling, and sift through all kinds of posts, wikis, data sheets, and discussion threads. Then I had to go to various discussion groups to ask specific questions to fill in gaps. Thankfully, there were experienced people who were willing to help me. As I was doing this though, I thought about everyone else who was asking the same questions, running into the same frustrations, and either duplicating the effort I was putting out, or not even getting as far (because some answers took real persistence to nail down). So I thought…
“Why don’t I capture and distill all of this, to create resources for fellow retro gamers that can really smooth out their journey?”
So I did. After more than two decades helping my work clients sort out, organize, and streamline their messages (I do brand communications), I thought I might be able to add value to the retro game community by applying those learned skills to this new subject. So far, feedback has been very positive. I hope you are finding answers and useful resources worth keeping, as well as sharing with others.
However deep you want to get into working with your retro game setup, my desire is to help you easily understand the things you need to know to get your head around something. Don’t want to get too geeky and swap chips on your Atari, or find a cheap power supply for your Intellivision 2? No worries. The must-read breakdown I wrote on cleaning NES cartridges is something anyone can do (my 12 year old was doing it with me), and it will remove a lot of frustration from your gaming experience by making games work consistently. Want to know how to get new games onto that snazzy C64 Mini? Or how to play Japanese games in English? Maybe you want a game that smooths you off the adrenaline high, and creates some serious, satisfying chill? The goal of RetroGame Start is to enrich your retro gaming experience by sharing my research to uncover cool things you may not have known about before - whether problem solving, or exploring new possibilities (like what to do with that BASIC thing on your C64 Mini).
But then another set of thoughts came bubbling up.
Why do we do this retro gaming thing - why is it fun? (No, it’s not just nostalgia). Or how can a 40-year old game style help shake off the always-connected, always-distracted lifestyle? I started to think about the hows and whys behind the activity of retro gaming. I believe wholeheartedly that playing old games can actually enrich and balance out our life experience, and points to bigger questions about the challenges of contemporary culture. I also think that we can learn more about a broader, more satisfying approach to life.
Well that sounds overinflated, doesn’t it? Actually, no. Retro gaming is a significant piece of a larger cultural trend where people are questioning the mad, headlong dash into ever more busyness, and efficiency. The go-go-GO, and do-do-DO culture is burning people out. We want to back off from the bleeding edge, and reclaim experiences that let us approach things differently. We want to reclaim valuable ways of living that we have left behind in the name of pursuing the ALWAYS NEW! Get off the treadmill. Culturally speaking, playing retro games is in the same space, and accomplishing some of the same ends, as listening to music on vinyl. No - not hipsterism. It’s the desire to slow down, to be more intentional, and live more in the present moment, not in a fractured, and distracting virtual space. Going old school, and being intentionally more simple, even more (what!) inefficient… can be a little vacation for the soul. And while you’re at it, save some money too, since total cost of ownership on retro gaming is much lower than on contemporary gaming.
So if you’re up for joining this fascinating sub-culture and exploring, I hope to inspire and inform you, and make it all that much more rewarding. That may sound grandiose, but I think something is afoot here, and I hope you come along as I do my little piece to help map the territory.
RetroGame Start | Hexatrope Creative Studios, LLC