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How has Classic Gaming changed over the years since you’ve been involved?

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Q: How has Classic Gaming changed over the years since you’ve been involved?

When I first got into classic gaming it was about collecting and playing these great games. For me that's Square One and that's where I still stand today. Everything I do with the site, and in my personal "classic gaming adventures" is rooted in this idea of the original source, these games we've always had fun with and the experience of playing them with family and friends.

When I began this Atari classic gaming journey, the (consumer) internet was brand new and I wouldn't have access to the web for a few more years, so it was just me doing something that I liked to do. I didn't know anyone else was out there doing this. It was a little like being in LOST or The Walking Dead and being alone somewhere setting up a radio transmission to see if anyone else was out there, and finding someone else responding on the radio.

By the end of the '90s and early 2000s there was a robust community of classic Atari gamers sprouting up online. It felt indie / hobbyist. There were just a handful of Atari sites out there, and I'm proud to have been one of them. The gaming expos popped up and we started to gather together. 

Since then it's grown exponentially. The home-brew scene exploded. The advent of YouTube brought about a ton of personalities and more people sharing their love of classic games in new ways. But a lot has changed too. When you'd say "classic gaming" we used to think "CGE" and these days a lot of people think "AVGN".

I always enjoyed the original experience of collecting and playing these games and sharing our passion in a small community. As things have changed over the years I've tried to focus Atari I/O on that original experience.

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For me classic gaming has been about giving a home to games and consoles no one wants any more; a chance to see what's out there costing very little or nothing at all.  It was also making huge mistakes without realizing it like just handing someone all of your dupes without getting anything for them in return.  I've discovered games I either couldn't find or couldn't afford in new condition.

For a while almost every yard sale during the late 1980's to mid 1990's almost always had a 2600 collection up for grabs. For a price between $5 to $10 one could grab a 2600 with controllers and at least 15 games.  You could also sometimes talk the seller down a bit on price, too, and using any visual flaws to your advantage.  I remember asking Mom one Saturday if we were the only people on the planet that had a 5200?  Because I never found those but looking in the backseat of the car from one day's worth of yard sale hunting turned out about five or six 2600 setups with lots of games.  Well over $500 in 1980's merchandise for about $40 - $50 total.  I was stunned.

Once we would get home I'd take the machines apart, give the plastics a bath, remove the tarnish off the switches, and test all the games on the motherboards, essentially killing two birds.  What worked I would hang on to, broken units I held on to for parts.  After having 10 units and lots of games my room got crowded and I had to thin out the 2600s.  My NES, 7800, and SMS had there spaces but the 2600s were growing out of control.  If I was smart I would have asked my grandmother if I could keep most of it at her house.  I would have lived there anyway.  If I'd only known, right?

I did get a demographic of what Atari games were popular in my area.  Pac-Man and Combat were with every 2600 I ever found. ET was almost always present along with Defender and Space Invaders.  Pitfall! was favored by a few.  Oddities included Dig Dug, Moon Patrol, Enduro, and Donkey Kong.  Those I found once or twice.

My first thought into collecting classic games again was they were old so I can get some games cheap.  Yea.  I never thought of these old games going for high prices.  Even some resellers still around are asking high prices.  I'm not complaining but just stunned how games no one could sell for $1 is now selling for $100.  Unreal.

I enjoy what I have but understand that the classic gaming market is starting to dry up.

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People ask me, "How did you get into classic gaming?"  I tell them, "Well, I played these games back then... and never stopped.  Eventually they became "classic"".  lol

 

But seriously...

 

A lot of classic gaming for me is reliving nostalgia for the games I played and getting the chance to experience the games I didn't play back then.  Of course, when I was younger, there was no "classic gaming"...  

For a while, I played older games because we couldn't afford to get newer consoles or games.  I got an NES when I was in middle school around 87 or so.  The 2600 that I'd had before that was lost in a house fire.  I got a TurboGrafx when I was in high school (89? 90?) and sold my NES and games in a garage sale.  I had the intention of selling the system, accessories, a couple years worth of Nintendo Power and games for around $150 or so... everything was in great shape.  Wanted to use the money for a new TurboGrafx game.  But my step-mom thought I was asking too much and sold it for $40.  That was when I decided I would never sell another system.  And thus, when I started having and playing "old" systems.

I feel like, for a while, there wasn't "classic gaming".  It was just looked down on as playing "old" games.  Didn't seem like the hobby that it has become.  There were some people who were still into the older games, but not many.  They were kinda "fringe" I think.  I remember back a little after high school going to a store called The Atari Shop in my little town.  Ran by some crazy Atari enthusiast, this place had stacks and stacks of 2600 games and consoles.  There was a little of everything there. I remember seeing new Jaguar systems and games there and playing a bit of Alien vs Predator.  But what I really remember more than anything was the owner playing Barnyard Blaster on an Atari XEGS and saying it was so much better than Duck Hunt.  I didn't play it, but thought he was a bit nutty.  (I bought my copy of Adventure from there for a dollar or something.)

I kept just getting the new systems for a while and didn't really look into getting those old systems until around the early 2000s.  That was when I discovered Ebay and started finding more stuff in local shops and pawn shops.  I think things were still pretty cheap for older stuff then, for example, my then-wife bought my Jaguar on Ebay around then.  System, two controllers, and about six games or so.  I don't think she paid more than around $50 for it.  Of course Jaguar stuff has gone up so much since then...

It seems, to me, that classic gaming as a hobby has really exploded since the 2000s.  A lot of people say that it's because it's when people who played NES as a kid started getting old enough to have jobs and buy old games.  And that stuff is kind of cycling through the systems like that.  NES games will go up, and then drop off... then SNES will go up, and then drop off, and then Playstation games...  as each generation has the people who played it as kids get to a certain age where they want to relive those days and have the jobs that give them the expendable income where they can pay for it.  Of course, some things don't really drop back down in price.. and some things have been expensive even before the rest went up.  TurboGrafx and Saturn used to be pretty cheap, but then ballooned in price.  I think they'll be riding a high price wave for a while yet before they start coming back down.  It's been about six years since I bought a game for either system.  

A little later in the 2000s is when I think emulation started really becoming more viable as a way to play old games, too.  I remember playing NES emulators around 2001.  They seemed okay, but a little clunky.  But they've progressed quite a ways.  And then, along a similar front, Everdrives and similar devices started coming into their own.  I would have expected this to lessen demand for the actual games and systems, but it doesn't seem to have affected them much.  Maybe some people are saying, "Why buy when I can just download this" but that may be offset by people saying, "Man, I can't believe I don't have this game/system... I need to go buy this!"  And now they're coming out with all these mini systems (some better than others).  So we'll see how that affects things.

It seems to me that in the 2010s is when YouTube and streaming platforms like Twitch have really grown in prominence in the retro/classic gaming scene.  There's a pretty active "Retro" category on Twitch with many streamers and viewers.  A lot of it is speed runners, which get a pretty good amount of viewers, but there's also some that just like to play old games and interact with the viewers (I'm in this camp lol).  I feel a lot of people are living vicariously through these streamers and YouTubers.  Seeing games that they never played or can't afford to play or whatever.  Some might be inspired to seek out games they've seen for the first time or whatever.  I had someone in my chat one time tell me that I had inspired them to start looking for a Sega Saturn after playing through the Saturn version of Tomb Raider.  Regardless of whether it has any effect on game prices or demand, I think the rise of these platforms have really contributed to the retro and classic gaming scene.

 

 

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You guys said perfectly.

It's all about nostalgia for me. I grew up with gaming & it's never left me.

I stupidly gave away all of my 2600 stuff around 1985 and spent the mid-90s buying it all back. Funcoland helped me pick up all the NES games that I wanted but never had.

I've since pared down my collection, as space has dictated I can't keep everything I'd like, but that's okay. I keep the stuff that's important to me & thanks to emulation and other means, I'm still able to play the games I love or never had a chance to play, even though I don't physically have them anymore.

I enjoy watching some video content on classic games, but that's not retro gaming to me. That's just another angle of a hobby/passion that I've had for the past 40 years.

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I think we all have similar experiences.

For me, I started by trying to preserve what I had as a younger person.  I still had my 2600 and games, but I was more concerned with my Atari 8-bit collection.  Most of the games I had were on disk, and I knew they wouldn't last forever.  So I started buying cartridge versions of games, and really got into emulation as a way to preserve what I thought would eventually no longer be viable. 

Once middle age set in, and my kids were a little older, I found out I had a little extra income that I could play with, and I decided to try out all the systems I drooled over as a kid, but could never afford.  5200, Colecovision, C64, Vectrex, etc.  And also, buying whatever 2600 games I could find that I never had before.  My kids were really into Nintendo in this period, so we also started buying those systems and games.  NES, SNES, Genesis, etc.  My kids loved that stuff, and I found that I did too.

Over time, the hobby has gotten much bigger and much more expensive.  At this time, I like to fix old systems that are broken, or update them to work on modern TV's.  Buying is no longer so important to me.  I have tons of games that I will play and enjoy for a long time.

 

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Well, I've told my story on this several times that can be found in various places. But I will sum up as I might have a slightly different take on the hobby from then vs now.

I always had an Atari with my original 4 switch unit in the early 80s and then my 7800 in the late 80s. But in '89 we got our first real computer. A 286 20mhz powerhouse that could do expanded memory and all sorts of advanced features for the time. This is when I discovered computer games like the Sierra adventure games (Still some of my favorite memories), Simulators from MicroProse and the like. After that, I didn't touch console gaming or really even keep up with as it just seemed to all be primitive to me at that point compared to the PC games I could play. Sure I was aware of the Master system, NES (My step brother had one that he would bring over on the weekends), Genesis, SNES, etc. But I didn't personally want consoles at that point and only played a game here and there occasionally at a friends house. Heck the entire 32-bit and 64bit generation I totally skipped. Then in '99 there about I discovered emulation on computers. Initially I was shown Colem, M.A.M.E. and...Gens. 

It was Gens that actually got me back intro what we now called Retro gaming. I had played Sonic the Hedgehog when it was new at a friends house in the past and remembered liking it but hadn't really experienced all the great games that I missed out on back then. Gens brought that light to me. But...Gens wasn't perfect either. There were sound issues, glitches, stuttering..etc. So I sought out to find an actual Sega Genesis figuring they would be cheap enough. Sure enough I got my now still daily driver model 1 va2 for about $15 shipped off ebay. It was my very first ebay transaction. I then found Turtles:Hyperstone Heist as a loose cart for $8 at a local pawn shop. Grabbed it not really knowing what to expect from that game. I got the Genesis in the mail a few days later and...was blown away playing that game thinking about how close to an arcade experience it was! I then started grabbing Genesis games from all over. At the same time, I contacted my mother to ask about the Atari 7800. I got that back, along with I believe all of my original games both 7800 and 2600 and spent the weekend cleaning the games, the system and just having a blast playing some old favorites I used to play nearly 20 years prior. Well...it exploded from there and I've quite a collection these days although none of it is completed sets or even all CIB as most of my stuff is still mostly loose carts and manuals when I can find them along with systems and backup systems.

I naturally discovered the hobby as well during this time in the early 2000s quickly becoming a member of the 2600nexus (Now of course known as AtariAge). I attended my first retro convention in 2002 at CGE in Vegas. Loved being with like minded people with a passion for video games both old (Retro) and new(modern). I then formed my own small convention here in the Oklahoma area and did so annually for the next 13 years. But during those 13 years, the hobby soon became something else. A business... a history and genre all its own. It became a bit more complicated than I thought it would ever be. Now we had new games being developed, but also discoveries of unreleased prototypes. But there was also political crap cropping up over the hobby that made it more... well..I will just say "Interesting". And soon, the Atari crowd had fallen to the side for the new Nintendo crowd of retro gaming and now..the 16-bit crowd.

Because of this my small show began to loose its exhibitor base as we all moved, started new families, or perhaps burned out and lost interest all together? Some. swtiched from the old consoles...to retro and classic computers. As if my own history from the late 80s early 90s was coming back full circle or at least that is what I observed. But it just wasn't the same as it was 20 years ago... heck...it changed by 2010 honestly.

So what does it mean to me now? Well, I still have a strong passion for these classic games of ours. I don't play them as often as I should as most of my attention is hardware focused. But I still purchase new homebrew releases for these retro systems and play them when I can. My collection is my personal museum of my childhood as I has always wanted it to be when I was a young kid being surround with games. I like that I can look at it...remember a fun time spent with that game, or looking for it during my very active collecting years. But I also really like being able to just pull one of these games out off my shelf, pop it into a waiting retro console and play an hour or two.

That's all I really wanted it seems. I just wanted to be able to retreat to my "Library", pull out a good "Book", and experience a favorite "Chapter" or "Story" once again.

Edited by CrossBow

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I started really playing Atari games in 1982. I saw how it started with Telstar in the 1970s (I remember it when I was about four or five; I tried to get one and my mother pried it from my hands because it was too expensive for her at the time), then we got our first Atari 2600 when I was seven years old. We had a lot of fun with that A2600. Then, Christmastime in 1987, we got an A7800. It had PPII and also my parents got Xevious. It was hidden from view and I actually got upset because of that. I thought that I did not get it. Then, I saw it and hugged the machine.

Over the years, we had a Genesis, and I played that endlessly. I also got a TG-16 for a while. Then, after me parents gat tired of the games, I "inherited" the Atari collection (quoting the word because my parents are still alive). I got a SMS, Intellivision, and a ColecoVision for a while, but I sold those and went strictly Atari, which is largely unchanged as a collection for the past thirty-eight years. I decided to go that route because it was getting to the point that Atari games were becoming more and more valuable as collector's items.

Later, I got a Jaguar and the CD unit. This is the most advanced game system I have had. I love to play my Jaguar as well. It still is a lot of fun. I also have a Lynx and my new A5200, which I have recently acquired.

So, what am I getting at here? What I mean is this. How classic gaming has changed over the years is the technology. Gaming has become more advanced over time in playability and appearance. It has also miniaturized. Granted, the technology has advanced in great strides. But, it has improved the gaming experience, and the graphics improve over time in visage as well. The A2600 has very primitive graphics in earlier cases, but over time as technology has improved, the graphics get better with every generation of game systems. So, I guess that is my point. You would think that the newer games, having better graphics and faster CPUs and GPUs, would have better gameplay. But, not always. I think that we are relying too much on emulation to imitate the classic gameplay.

Don't get me wrong, as emulation is cool and I think it is cool because it can imitate the games. But, some things are sacrificed due to the software emulation. You cannot get it 100% perfect in emulation ever, unless we really actually do advance in the emulation technology. Speed can suffer. For instance, my iMac has Virtual Jaguar. The speed is OK, but the music is choppy in every game I play. I have a Core i7 processor running at 2.8 GHz, a Radeon HD 4850 GPU with 512 MB of RAM, and 16 GB of RAM (which I could expand to 32 GB of RAM, if I wanted to, and actually I do). This iMac is also primitive in today's standards, being made in 2009. But, the Jag does it spot-on with real hardware at only a mere fraction of the iMac's CPU/GPU speed and with only 2 MB of RAM. And, that RAM amount is skimpy even for the Jag!

I believe that, if you are going to use emulation, use it in cohesion with the real hardware. Reverse-engineer the real hardware, try to make it better with the real technology, and use hardware emulation more sparingly with it, if you need to. Like I said, emulation is great. But, I think that, as a technologically advanced society, we are too dependent on emulation, and I think that we are really cheapening ourselves. Emulation is great, but the real experience with real hardware is so much better. I say re-work the real hardware and advance it even more from that. Then, I think that you will get even more stellar results. We can do so much better than now.

Edited by DegasElite

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On 6/1/2020 at 1:31 PM, StormSurge said:

Funcoland helped me pick up all the NES games that I wanted but never had.

FuncoLand. That is bringing back some memories. We had a whole bunch of them in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. It was a great experience. :O)

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