Tag Archives | Gaming Nostalgia


I didn’t own an IBM PC or clone in the early days, so I missed out on the wonder of DONKEY.BAS, which came bundled with early versions of MS-DOS and was the first PC game. In fact, I don’t think I knew about it until I read Benj Edwards’ slideshow on operating-system games, which pointed out that it was cowritten by Bill Gates himself.

But now I can relive the magic for the first time, thanks to a new version of DONKEY.BAS for iOS. It’s 99 cents, is compatible with Game Center, and includes both iPhone and iPad versions. It seems to be a faithful rendition of the original, complete with blocky graphics and bloopy sound effects, and the same objective: Drive down road, avoid hitting donkeys. And it’s um, just as fun as it must have been back in 1981.

The new version is by Johnny Ixe; I’d love to think that’s a pseudonym for William H. Gates III. Probably not, though, so let’s hope that Microsoft doesn’t issue a takedown notice….


Classic Gaming Expo Makes E3 Old Again

Tucked into a corner of the Los Angeles Convention Center was a retro gamer’s paradise.

Arcade cabinets lined the back wall of the booth, flanking row after row of classic game consoles. Literally everything was there, from the Magnavox Odyssey to the TurboGrafx-16 to the Nintendo 64, many of them playable. An old TV cabinet played Space Invaders, right behind a glass display case with some of the rarest video game hardware in the world.

And at the center of it all was Joe Santulli, dressed in a crisp white suit and turquoise shirt, as if he’d stepped out of the 80s. After a three-year absence, Santulli and his fellow collectors have brought the Classic Gaming Expo back to E3, this time with a new purpose: They want to build a museum for video game history.

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Angry Birds vs. Pac-Man: Is it as Big of a Hit?

John Gruber, in his Talk Show podcast, says Angry Birds is the new Pac-Man.

Given how popular Angry Birds has become, and how it’s now part of popular culture, my first reaction is to agree. But Pac-Man is an icon that has endured for three decades, so we can’t take the comparison at face value. Let’s have some fun with the analogy and dig a little deeper.

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X-Men and the Lost Appeal of Arcade Beat-Em-Ups

A few years ago, my old man and I built an arcade cabinet. On slow weekends in Manhattan, I’d drive to my parents’ house in Connecticut, and we’d chip away at the project, cutting the plywood, fitting the plexiglass, installing the joystick and buttons. The “Arcadium Newmanium” was (and is) a beautiful monstrosity, and with the help of an emulator on an old PC, it can play more than 100 classic arcade games.

But it was the kind of project where the journey was more exciting than the destination. Once I started playing the arcade games from my childhood — primarily, beat-em-ups like X-Men and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — I quickly understood how little appeal these games had beyond cheap nostalgia.

So forgive me if I’m not excited about X-Men Arcade coming to Xbox Live and the Playstation Network.

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OutRun Meets the Real World

As Garnet Hertz sped towards the road in his OutRun concept car, I momentarily feared that he might get splattered by oncoming traffic. After all, gauging your surroundings can be difficult when your windshield is replaced with a video game.

Hertz describes the OutRun car as the “de-simulation of driving.” It’s the arcade cabinet from Sega’s 1986 racing game, fitted around a golf cart, with the game’s steering wheel and pedals hooked up to the drivetrain. More importantly, it’s a modified version of the OutRun software, blocking the view to the road. A pair of hood-mounted cameras are supposed to detect the road and feed the information back to the game, but this was impossible in the dark. Hertz was driving blind.

Of course, Hertz made it back to the crowd at Indiecade in one piece, but he wouldn’t let anyone else drive, so I made a video of him driving the Outrun car instead.

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A Stinky Old Plan for Video Game Smell-O-Vision

Scent is pretty much an untouchable dimension for multimedia. I doubt that many people pine for the ability to whiff what they’re seeing on the screen in front of them, and besides, delivering smell is impractical outside of big-ticket events.

Decades ago, Hideo Kojima, who’s best known for directing the Metal Gear Solid series of games, had a solution for the latter issue, at least. According to a post on Twitter, found by Kotaku, Kojima wanted the stench of blood to hover over Snatcher, one of his earliest games.

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Intellivision Collection Deemed Unfit for Gamestop [Update]

Update: The makers of Intellivision Lives! have erased the Facebook note referenced in this post, and Gamestop now lists the game on its website. A new statement from the makers apologizes “for jumping the gun” by talking about who will and will not be carrying the game, and promises to “shut up till [publisher Virtual Play Gamse] releases official info.” Thanks to commenter Mike Dougherty for pointing this out. Original story continues below.

Classic video game compilations strike me as easy money makers, created on the cheap and sold on pure nostalgia. But for Intellivision Lives!, Gamestop wants no part of that formula.

In a news posting on Facebook, the makers of Intellivision Lives! for Nintendo DS said Gamestop declined to sell the game. “They say that the 30-somethings that shop there ‘may find it appealing’ but apparently they don’t feel it is for their target (younger) clientele,” the news post said.

As Gamertell points out, Gamestop isn’t categorically opposed to classic game compilations. The retailer already sells Retro Atari Classics and Namco Museum DS for the Nintendo DS, in addition to countless other compilations for other game consoles. And according to the Entertainment Software Association, the most frequent buyers of video games are 40 years old on average, so there goes the theory about pandering to younger clientele. I suspect that Gamestop’s decision has more to do with Intellivision than it does with a refusal to accommodate 30-somethings or nostalgia.

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Atari May Plunder Its Classics for Remakes

Atari’s not the company it used to be — literally, it’s been swallowed up by a succession of larger companies since the 1980s — but it can still milk name recognition and classic video games.

The company, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Infogrames, is remaking the Atari 2600 classic Haunted House, and a couple of listings on Gamefly suggest that Centipede and Star Raiders remakes could be next.

Given the timing, this wouldn’t surprise me. E3 was crowded with remakes of well-known or in some cases forgotten video game franchises. Fondly remembered games like Goldeneye and NBA Jam are being brought back to life, while franchises that never really went away, such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Mortal Kombat, are going back to their 2D roots. These are safe bets in the midst of a games industry slump. If Atari wants to jump on the nostalgia train, now’s the time.

The difference between Atari’s remakes and the examples I saw at E3 is that Atari’s games are so old, there’s very little to build from. Haunted House could be a great game, but it’s impossible to say whether the remake is faithful to the original, because the original is so primitive. If Star Raiders gets remade, it’ll probably resemble Wing Commander more than anything else.

Basically, I feel the same way about Atari’s games as I do about the upcoming surge of movies based on very old video games. They won’t necessarily be bad, but they’re just blank slates with recognizable names.


Yearning for Color in Black and White Game Consoles

It makes little sense that I miss having Nintendo’s GameCube in my living room. The Wii plays GameCube games, and it has a slimmer profile, but something’s lacking. Frankly, I think it’s the GameCube’s indigo shell.

I came to ponder color in game consoles — that is, in their physical design — while reading about Sony’s plans to release a white Playstation 3 in Japan. That completes the trifecta; with the Wii and Xbox 360 both going black, all three current gaming consoles have reversed polarity, or at least offered the option for customers to do so.

But isn’t there room for game consoles in the middle of the color spectrum? Not if history’s any indication. Take a few minutes to scroll through TheGameConsole.com’s brief retrospective of home gaming systems. You’ll find a few funky outliers — Magnavox’s Odyssey 300 from 1976 was bright yellow — but for the most part game consoles come in black, white or gray.

The exception to this rule is portable gaming. Nintendo’s DSi XL comes in debuted in burgundy, and the DSi launched stateside in black or light blue (white and pink followed). Though Sony’s PSP comes mainly in black in the United States, blockbuster games are sometimes accompanied by limited edition color PSPs.

I think I understand why this happens. Portable consoles are a personal thing, onto which gamers can project their self-image with color. At home, a game console’s best bet is to blend in. Entertainment centers are black tie affairs, so don’t be the only set-top box wearing a Hawaiian shirt, so to speak.

Thing is, game consoles are supposed to be the fun ones, the crazy uncles that do all the fun party tricks. Colorful game consoles may not be totally appropriate, but the living room just feels a little too bland without one.