Orphaned Computers & Game Systems

Vol. II, Issue 3    April 1998

Is It Beyond Us to Accept the Newer Systems?

By Chris Federico

It all started simply enough: with a single game.

For many years, I insulted newer systems. My trepidation started with the 16-bit era and continued through to the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation. Compared with my classic systems, they all seemed like overpriced, overrated crap.

Obsolete machines always seem to be my favorites. I learned how to program on my Commodore 64, and that was the only computer I owned from 1983 through early 1997. I did get a C-128 in the mid-'80s, but I found myself sticking with the old BASIC, afraid that any programs I might write with the newer commands would be inaccessible if my much less-common 128 were to stop working.

The only game console that I owned until last year was the Atari 2600. I found the hunt for cartridges fascinating, and was satisfied with playing games that were released during my childhood, but which I'd never been able to play when they'd been new. When Adam and I started hanging out in 1997 after ten years of not seeing each other, my time had mostly been occupied with creating C-64 games. Adam suggested the purchase of a cheap Atari 7800 that we found while shopping, so I bought that and loved it. He's recently added to my collection of classics by gifting me with a ColecoVision, an Atari 8-bit computer and others. So I got out of the rut of playing only 2600 and 64 games, but I still found only the classic machines to be worth my time. But as far as the computer side of it went, Adam broke that rut for me as well.

When we decided that we'd write a game together, Adam told me that the Amiga would best suit our needs. I thought that it would be a difficult computer to get familiar with (and besides, I'd written off all newer boxes as being overblown and irrelevant to my pleasures). I was stuck fast in the "classic" era, and didn't want to hear from anything new. But the fact that Commodore had made it warmed me to the idea a little, so I decided that it couldn't hurt to see what I was missing.

Adam kindly gave me an Amiga to use, and I found it fascinating, efficient and more than capable of doing what I wanted. I now spend most of my time writing articles and stories, programming, drawing cartoons, composing music and playing games on the Amiga 2500. So now I only hate IBMs!

The same sort of thing happened when Adam suggested that I'd like the Atari Jaguar. I didn't think it offered anything that I didn't already have going with my classic systems. But I learned that Tempest and Defender, in their classic incarnations, were available for the Jag -- so I bought it, and became enraptured. And there was one game that I'd seen on PCs in the past but had never thought much of: Doom.

I bought the Jaguar version anyway, since it was made cheaply available to me. I found (and still find) it much more fun with a joypad than a PC keyboard; in fact, it's become one of my favorite video games of all time. Imagine that! A recent game! I became quite addicted, and not a single night went by from October of 1997 through February of '98 on which I didn't play Doom. Sure, I got to know all of the levels by heart; but there's something about the sensation of playing that game that one constantly craves.

Recent title or not, I was again hooked on a bygone system. I thought the PlayStation was overrated and too expensive; there was no imaginative play in the games I'd seen, and I felt that none of them could ever capture me like the classics or the Jag games. I figured that people were fools for buying mere screen wallpaper. It's the same reason I find Myst overrated and stupid. How, after all, is something made popular? When people are led to believe that it's already popular. That always works in this superficial culture.

Adam recently informed me that Doom was available for the PlayStation. Uh-oh.

Three Dooms on two separately available discs, in fact. With different levels from the ones I'd memorized in the Jaguar version.

Then my tax-refund check came in.

So that's how an avid fan of the "classics" and new-system hater came to purchase a PlayStation. And I don't regret it, because I have a couple of games that I absolutely love playing.

I'm entertained by these games, as I've always been entertained by playing Adventure on the 2600 or Raid on Bungeling Bay on the 64. It's all entertainment to me: Frenzy or Pepper II on the ColecoVision, or Doom on the PlayStation. My only goal is to have fun.

So I guess that's my point: Don't hate the new systems just because they're new, but certainly don't buy one just for the sake of your collection. Learn the lesson from me. If there's a game you love that's available for a new machine, then that's the only reason for buying it; try not to attach anything to it. You wouldn't buy music by a band you hate just because you're trying to build your collection, right? You buy music you like. So you buy games you like -- don't avoid something just for the sake of avoiding it, but don't buy it just to have it. Either way, you'll be allowing mere fashion to influence your decisions.

A game system does not have to come along with a hunk of loyalty on your part, and it certainly doesn't represent an "abandonment" of your classic machines. Nothing's evil based solely on the year it was released! Sure, a lot of glamorous crap is constantly being foisted on the public. But there are gems, as always. You like it? You buy it.

There's something else to be taken into consideration: The new games of today are the classics of tomorrow. Why limit the rest of your life to the enjoyment of 2600 or Intellivision games that will just get older and older to you? You'll feel that ol' nostalgic, fascinated feeling about PlayStation or N-64 games in fifteen or twenty years. Sure, the 2600 was a completely new kind of toy, and we were much younger and more easily fascinated, giving our present selves more attachment to them than we'll ever have to the games we buy today. But can't you just see some thirty-year-old in 2010, saying that the new systems are crap and that he only loves his classic Nintendo 64 games?

Sure, be wary and remain picky about which new products you align with your old games. Beware anything that's being presented as a great new trend just because it's a technological novelty. There are more rip-offs available for the PlayStation than were ever available for, say, the Vectrex. But be open-minded. Enjoyment is the name of the game, not loyalty. -- CF