Are Retro Games Mid-Core? An In-Depth Review.

In the past few weeks after our Mid-Core Gamer ideas filtered out on to the interbaun, I have seen a question pop-up many times: What about retro games? There are many “retro gamers” out there that fit the mold of Mid-Core, but but might not identify with the idea because they simply don’t play many new games. Some of them want to know if they might fit into this new idea of the Mid-Core Gamer. The short answer is. “yes”, in most cases playing “retro games” is a definitely a Mid-Core activity. Even though we believe playing retro-games is Mid-core, there are times when the activity is definitely not. Here are a few examples of when you might not be a Mid-core retro gamer.

  1. If you collect retro games, and refuse to play them any other way than on original consoles that have not been sold in stores for the past 25 years, you are a probably not a mid-core retro gamer.
  2. If you could have been a featured star in the movie “King Of Kong” vying for the world record on a Slither, Ladybug, Mr. Do, etc. coin-op, you are a probably not a mid-core retro gamer. .
  3. If you have bought, for example, Konami Classics for the GBA and have complained that the version of Time Pilot included is definitely not emulated but must be a re-make because the parachutes continue to show-up when the game is in boss mode and that you simply cannot play the game because of this horrible indiscretion, even though it really doesn’t effect game play in any other way , you are a probably not a mid-core retro gamer. (Note: I fit this one).
  4. Conversely, if you have purchased one of the original Jakks Pacific, battery operated, direct-connect Atari or Namco collections and raved about how they were “exactly like the original games”, you are a probably not a mid-core retro gamer. .
  5. If want to play Atari 2600 Asteroids with friends, not because it is a reasonably decent version of the coin-op game, but because you feel the need to explain aloud to anyone who will listen that it was the first cartridge to use bank switchable roms to break the 4K limit, you are a probably not a mid-core retro gamer. .
  6. If are still bitter about your $1500 losing eBay bid for the Atari VCS prototype of “Save Mary”, you are a probably not a mid-core retro gamer.

Obviously all the above are negotiable and there are many many shades in between, and is why, we believe, playing retro-games, for the most-part is a Mid-Core activity. So how do Mid-Core gamers play retro games? The answer: any way they can. They play on MAME, other emulators, console and PC retro game collections, in the back corner of a Dave And Buster’s, on the Atari Flashback 2 and other direct connects (but are grumbly about it), on GBA, PSP or DS, and most recently, on XBox Live Arcade, and the Wii Virtual Console.

To further prove this point, I will go through the current (1.4) Version of the Mid-Core manifest and it’s axioms and discuss how retro-games fit:

1. Save Anywhere/Respect Our time

We start out with a tough one. Most retro-games definitely do not allow you to save the game, especially if you play the games on the original consoles. It was not until the second generation of NES games with titles like Legend Of Zelda that you could save your game. However, many emulators (including the Wii virtual console) allow you to save-state while you are playing, effectively giving you the ability to “save” retro games in a way that could not have been done when they were originally made. This might invalidate your score when you send a video tape of your 11 hour Columns session to Twin Galaxies for entry in the record books, but it is fine for the mid-core.

2. We Can’t Always Pay $59.99 For A Game

This one is easy. Unless you are a collector of rare retro games, the price for playing can be relatively little compared to to how much enjoyment you will get out of them. Excluding “free” choices that might not be compensating the original artists, there are retro collections with as many as 80 games for $20 (Atari: The 80 Classic Games). At $5.00, XBox Live Arcade games offer a good value, and add a competitive element to the contests. The Wii Virtual Console is more expensive per game ($5-$10 each), but offers state saving and access to some games that have never been available prior.

3. Reasonable Graphic Choices

Obviously many retro games were made with older technology and thus have less demanding specs of newer games. However, I’m not going to let retro-games off so easy. As Mid-Core gamers we don’t like “terrible” graphics any more than we like bloated installs for inferior games. For this reason, this item of the manifesto varies by game. If you can overlook (or in some cases, embrace ) the graphics of the early consoles,and let the the game-play  shine through, then graphics will not matter. Curiously, it’s the later games of consoles like the Atari 2600 that are more difficult to swallow than the earlier ones. For instance, the 2600 version Space Invaders plays so much like the actual coin-op, and has so many options, you won’t really notice the graphics. On the other hand, games that tried to “push the limits” that came later in the console cycle (i..e Private Eye by Activision ) show at the seams.

4. Players

  • We Love Single Player Games
  • Cooperative Games On One Screen Are Gold
  • Multi-player Games: Play Anytime, Find Friends Easily, No Fees, Voice Chat Not Necessary

The Player options of retro games are difficult to assess because there have been so many configurations over the years, you can really find games to fit any category of competition. In fact, if you are looking for a specific type of contest, retro-games might be your best option as there so many ways to play. The one down-side is that it will be most likely very hard to play online against anonymous other players unless there is still a hardcore community supporting the game.

5. “Casual” Games Don’t Have To Be Simple Games

Many retro-games are very simple contests. Most likely every console game made from 1976-1983 will fall into the “too simple”category (yes, Dragonstomper, there are exceptions). Most coin-op games fare even worse, as they were designed for someone to play for 60-90 seconds at a time, and ramp-up in difficulty very quickly. The best place to find depth in retro-games are in computer games from the Atari 800/C-64/ST/Amiga era, the console era post Super Mario Brothers, and of course, the 90’s era of PC games.

6. Size Does Not Matter

Most retro games from 80’s and early 90’s are so small you might mistake them for viruses on your hard-drive. If you are looking to carry an entire era of gaming along with you on your laptop, this is the place to look.

7. No need to be “mature” for the sake of being “mature”

Atari Inc. used to have an informal rule about “killing humans”. Under Nolan Bushnell they attempted to make games that were not violent against regular people (with Shark Jaws being a possible exception). However, as the 80’s rolled around, a few “mature” classic games found there way to the stores for the VCS and home computers (Strip Poker, Soft Porn Adventure). However, these were so few and far between that they are footnotes among the mass of released games. On the down-side, aside from Infocom text adventures, and some golden-age Sierra titles, you can’t find many retro games with any of the “emotional depth” that modern games attempt (and mostly fail) to provide. Still, if you are looking to play games that are abstract in their violence and mature content while remaining mid-core, retro-games can fit the bill.

8. Yes To One-Time Fees, Rarely To Monthly Fees

There are hardly any fees associated with playing retro-games, but also very few options to update them. These are mostly one-time purchases offering equitable value for what you pay.

1. There Are Exceptions To All These Rules

Yep. I’m sure you have come-up with many exceptions and are already forming an angry email in your head that you will ultimately never send because: it will take too much time to write, your wife wants you to fold the laundry, and in reality, it’s not really worth the time. However, be satisfied in the knowledge that I know you wanted to do it.

2. Mid-core Gamers can be of any age

Kids like retro-games as much as older gamers. I’ve noticed that my own kids are especially attracted to Sega Genesis, and N64 games. We’ve had emails from people of every age saying they are “Mid-core” and most of them have mentioned playing retro-games.

3. Any game can be a Mid-core Game.

Or not. Especially with retro-games, and this is followed up by the final axiom:

4. In some cases Mid-core is not the game, but how you play the game

In the final analysis, Yes, definitely retro-games can be Mid-core. Sometimes they can also be considered casual and hard-core. It really depends on how you play them. In some cases (like myself and Jeff) you can be Mid-core with most of your gaming, and hard-core in some areas (i.e. retro-games). At any rate we would like to welcome all the retro-gamers who will have us, into the fold of the mid-core. We’re glad to meet you.

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