Better late than never
|I might have a bit of a video game problem. |
That problem is too many games, not enough time.
One of the things I've noticed over the past several years, which I'm sure most of you who have been playing games for a while have noticed as well, are the preponderance of "retro" styled games; titles that eschew the polished graphics and giant file size of the AAA titles from big studios and publishers in favor of an 8 bit aesthetic or a simpler (but no less challenging) play style. There are probably several reasons for this. One is just a style preference. For those of us, like myself, who grew up playing on systems like the Atari 2600, ColecoVison, NES, SNES, and the Sega Genesis it's a nostalgia thing. For kids who grew up with the better graphics and processing power of PlayStations and Xboxes, it's a kitsch thing. And for developers, especially indie devs, it's a quicker, easier, and cheaper way to get an idea out of their head and onto your phone, tablet, laptop, or console. On the OUYA (yes, I was one of those folks who backed the Kickstarter and loved the little Android based cube and all its versatility) there were a whole series of games made by a Spanish developer under the Locomalito name that I absolutely loved, partially because of the look and partly because of the challenge of the game play. These weren't games that you could put on "easy" mode just to enjoy the story - not that I have anything against that at all - but reflected the difficult, often brutally so, play style of those old games I grew up on. Locomalito is not alone in creating retro-inspired love letters to the hobby he grew up on. Team Meat's Super Meat Boy was a smash hit for the indie developers, in all its frustratingly difficult platforming glory, breaking Xbox records on its launch day. UNDERTALE was also a huge hit on PC before making the jump to console. You get the picture. There's a lot of love for these older games, and folks have been making them in this retro style for over a decade now. It's not a passing fad. It's a real aesthetic choice, and it isn't going away.
Another thing I noticed was that a lot of the games I'd played on earlier systems, especially the first couple generations of PlayStation and Xbox, were getting reissued on newer consoles, with some of them getting the remaster treatment. In the past if you wanted to play these older games - and there was a lot of interest in doing so - you had to find a used copy and bust out an older system. But with the rise of emulators and handheld devices like iOs and Android phones and tablets, you could either play that original game code (ripped from your legally purchased copy of the game, of course) in an emulator or get copies of the game for cheap from the Google Play store to experience on the go. Then, of course, there was GOG.com. For anyone who has tried to use DosBox or other programs to play older versions of PC games, you know that one of the issues you can run into is processor throttling. If you don't throttle your processor, they game can run at insane speeds. I ran into this myself trying to run Conan: The Cimmerian, a game I originally played on an IBM Aptiva 486, on a modern system after finding the CD while cleaning out my old trailer. When I loaded it up, the opening scene with the mounted cavalry played itself out in less than a second and the game was completely unplayable until I figured out how to throttle my processor. GOG solves this problem by making those "Good Old Games" ready for play on modern systems, at a more than fair price.
This is all great if you want to play Jazz Jackrabbit or Earthworm Jim exactly as the developers created it. But when Activision decided they wanted to reissue Spyro the Dragon for the latest generation of consoles, they wanted it to look better than it did on those old PlayStation consoles. So here we have the third "R" in our inspiration for this site - the remastered game. The cynical and jaded might say this is just another way for a big publisher like Activision to wring some more money out of a beloved franchise without really creating something new, and they might have a bit of a point. But there is also something to be said for the improved game play of modern systems and controllers, and of seeing the character looking much more like the art on their box than the jagged polyhedral characters that those older systems could render. There's also the fact that some of these games are fantastic works of art - in story, design, and game play - and new generations deserve the chance to play them and experience that story. And older generations might appreciate the chance to revisit them without having their cherished memories tarnished by just how dated those, at the time cutting-edge, graphics look.
So, here I was, almost a year ago, on vacation with my fiancé, stepson and a brand new five-week-old baby, enjoying an adult beverage in the hot tub after everyone else had gone to bed for the night, all the above thoughts stewing in my well lubricated brain, when I decided "why not, let's buy the domain." Then I sat on it. I kept meaning to come back and start doing something with it, but anyone with a new child (and this was my first, so I was as naive and green as green can be) knows just how hard it is to get anything accomplished with a baby. There were mornings I was lucky to brush my teeth and shave my neck before I had to feed, change, and get the baby to my mom's in time to make a meeting. I couldn't even find time to play a game, much less grab screen shots, write a review, and publish a story while also covering city council and putting together two weekly newspapers. Weeks of intention turned into months. Months turned into seasons. Then the covid-19 crisis struck, and suddenly I was working from home more. Government meetings that I used to have to drive to went online. Not only did I not have to travel to cover them, but the meetings seemed to move faster without the small talk and distractions that in person meetings can bring. The loss of other entertainment content - like art exhibits and concerts - meant there was also an opening for my video game reviews. I started taking advantage of the game keys I was being offered again and I published my first video game review for the paper, for a PC and Nintendo Switch game called Broken Lines.
I thought, maybe at some point, I would post articles about other games here and also include links to the games I was getting paid to review for the newspaper. It would be a good place to collect those links to the other paid work I was doing. Or maybe I'd just let the domain expire when it came up for renewal. After all, I was getting paid to write these reviews now, and I had an established web site and print publication to share them.
Then they closed my paper. I'd been the sole staff writer for nearly a year after they closed our offices in both the cities we covered with our two papers, moved our advertising staff to our big sister daily, gave our office manager early retirement, and switched editorial duties from our local editor to the daily. But my papers were still in the black, even before they cut all the overhead. We were also the "paper of note" for the county, which meant the cities and the county government used us when they were required to publish notices. Newspapers were a faltering industry, I knew that. But we were safe still, right? We weren't ready to go the way of the dinosaurs and the dodo bird. We still had so much work to do, and content that was still important to our readers and our communities. Sadly, corporate America doesn't care about whether or not a community has access to local news. When it comes down to it, they didn't even care that we were still in the black. We got swept up along with all the other weeklies that weren't turning a profit, and with advertising dollars falling as non-essential businesses stayed closed or limited their marketing during the pandemic, they didn't see the need to save two small town newspapers in a rural eastern Kentucky county.
So, here we are today. Finally starting what I first conceived of nearly a year ago, and living up to the title of the blog I came up with then as a nod to the reissued and remastered games, emulators, and old-school experiences I intended to write about when opportunity provided. Along the way we might talk about stuff other than games, or things that have only the most tenuous tangential connection to games.
We might talk about new music that has an old school feel. Or old music that's gotten a fresh release.
We might talk about classic haunting cases and UFO sightings that you've never heard of, but should. Or phantom black cat sightings that have been going on for years despite DNR denials of such critters.
We might talk about new entries in well-established book series (yes, I probably will write about the two new Dresden Files novels that are set to come out this year).
And you'll definitely see me write about being a father, and how exhausting and rewarding and frustrating and wonderful it is.
Or anything else that strikes my fancy and I think others might enjoy. If you do, I hope you let us know in the comments. And if you don't, I hope you let us know in the comments.
I'm late to the game, but I still have every intention of playing it. (Now what did the kids do with my controller?)