The Dark Side of Retro Gaming.
As we have seen before retro gaming is based on a nostalgic kick that can grow and blossom into something spectacular for those involved. The retro gaming scene, however, is not all sweetness and light. Delve too deep and people will start to get pushed away from the scene or worse. Today we look at that rotten underbelly to make more people aware of its existence.
Retro gamers as a collective, like to pride themselves as an honest upstanding bunch, and whilst that is true for many, it doesn’t apply to all. The first thing to be aware of is that not everything is as it appears. Intrinsically, retro gaming is based on people’s memories and nostalgia. As a result of this heightened state of emotion, normally good people can be blindsided and ripped off for others amusement or financial gain as well as providing the impetus for more than a lil’ heated debate(s). What ‘am’ I talking about? Let’s look at ebay. Everyone knows that it’s an auction site and if they want to buy certain games, it is probably their first point of call to seek them out, away from any thrift shops, carboots and 2nd hand stores. To someone looking at it with fresh eyes, ebay would appear to be a treasure trove, with every conceivable whim catered for in terms of retro games and consoles. Things however aren’t as they appear.
The more niche the console the more constricted the market in terms of the numbers of sellers. This has the add-on effect of artificially increasing the prices of some items, well beyond what they are actually worth. These small band of sellers and semi (I use the term loosely) professional businesses, have in some cases cornered the market for systems and games. And as such charge what they like for them.
“All’s fair in commerce” you may be thinking. On the face of it, the games being sold do appear that way, scratch the surface however and things are muddied very quickly. Amongst some of the more straightforward methods of deceit, sellers flood the market, selling multiple versions of the same game as different auctions, bloating the market, (even if they don’t have many different versions to sell) in order to raise the prices, effectively price fixing for the consumers. They will enter in bids for other examples of the flooded games and then if they win will renege on payment for a myriad of reasons, so that as a consumer you are forced to pay their prices, because there is literally no other choice available if you want that game.
What it means for a new or unaware retro gamer is that a game or a console could be considerably more than its real market value. The price is high because it has been fixed there on purpose using questionable methods and can cause things to be 20 pounds, 50 pounds and much more higher than they should be.
Markets where this tends to occur are systems that have failed or have small runs, a quick search into markets such as the Sega 32x or Sega CD/ Mega CD will soon establish what can be done and a quick Google of the sellers will show a host of ‘horror’ stories surrounding them.
Things don’t stop there and again playing on the heart strings and memories of people, sales of games and equipment over respected forums has descended into farce, fraud, theft and police investigations as posters have disappeared, after confidence tricking their way into merchandise, not once, but with a whole separate ID as well, on the same forum. Clearly retro gaming isn’t as innocent as it first appears, but is there anything else that an unsuspecting retro gamer should be aware of?
Fan boys! Yes, much like the Sony vs. Microsoft vs. Nintendo debates that rage over the less salubrious forums, fan boys are very much part of the retro gaming culture, the only issue is that whereas now things are relatively new. Fan boys of retro systems have had decades in some cases to become entrenched in their views and anything approaching a sentient cohesive discussion is not possible under any circumstances. Ask any retro gamers about, C64 vs. Spectrum, Mega Drive vs. SNES or Atari ST Vs Amiga debates for example, and you can be sure that views will almost immediately polarise in favour of one or the other depending on what each person held dear.
There are some people who can transcend these arguments and see that both systems involved with have their own strengths and weaknesses, but more often than not discussions will range from games, to tech specs, to sound chips, to graphics and then descend into arguing and abuse, with thread locks and bans resulting. In extreme cases, this can lead to entire forums being wiped off the face of the planet, because someone doesn’t see eye to eye with someone else over which computer is better.
This exclusivity and preclusion doesn’t stop there, to some sections of retro gamers, those looking for even, the name of a long lost game can be on the wrong end of some flaming and abuse. The reasons? It’s basically for not being as clued up as those who frequent the places where they dare to post. This creates a division as there are those who genuinely believe that they are part of some bigger altruistic community, when from afar it appears as a threatening, abusive group of gaming snobs too caught up in their own fantasies to care about anyone trying to get a nostalgic hit. This is especially true when new people need help and do not know where to start.
Rather than embrace potential new members to a community, some retro gamers would rather push them away in favour of some pithy and cutting remarks about using Google, when they are supposed to be the fountains of knowledge. It certainly is disparaging and can be quite ironic to see people wondering why others no longer post or get slightly offended when on hand people preach inclusivity but practice exclusivity, to the detriment of them and the scene as a whole.
It’s a shame to see though and, register as a new user on one of the ‘major’ retro forums and ask about a game you vaguely remember and you can see for yourself the disdain that some parts of the retro community have for others. On the face of it this exclusivity seems quite tame, it only relates to forums regarding retro games and retro gaming doesnt it?
Simply, the answer is no. Towards the end of last year the UK hosted its biggest retro event by some margin. A gaming event with a mix of old and new it attracted thousands of people over a weekend for those to indulge their memories and celebrate all things retro gaming. The event’s success from a neutral stand point was unparalleled.
However closer to the retro scene, all hell broke loose. Too many normal people were there (yes it’s apparently possible to have too many people attending the biggest event ever apparently?), not enough specialisation in more obscure consoles, not enough trade stalls, attacks on exhibitors whilst the event was on and even slanging matches with the organisers for it not being a ‘true’ retro event are just some of the myriad of complaints levied at it. Rather than see it as the great success that it was, people would rather abuse, scorn and undermine the thing, lessening the chances it would happen again or at least making people attend because it wasn’t some small scale specialist fair that would attract 3 people and a whippet to it, and didn’t tie in with the ‘collective’ view of what retro should be as it didn’t cater to them specifically.
Rather than look outwards the scene has this immensely possessive nature, so much that it prefers to hang around what it knows and go back to what has been enshrined for number of years, as a dwindling number of enthusiasts gather around a dwindling number of machines doing the same old, same old. Change and the embracing of a new concept it would appear is slightly alien in concept and combined with all of the above doesn’t paint a rosy picture going forward.
To be honest it may be an outlandish thing to say, but because of the above nastiness and unpleasantry retro gaming is dying as a concept that has grown steadily since the beginning of the new millennium. The fun is continually being sucked out of it by those who are stuck in the same position that they always have been or have become entrenched in by years of pointless bickering and moulding by whatever part of the clan they belong to.
It doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who are new retro gaming, It just means that the whole thing is fragmented and stale and the dream of having a great time retro gaming can be utterly spoilt by divisions and fragmentation that took place long before they even got there. Even as new systems are added the battle fronts are shifted slightly to incorporate them in some strange quest for supremacy and victory over the others.
Whilst you don’t need a hard hat nor body armour yet to appreciate the fineries of retro gaming. It is perhaps worth bearing in mind that prick the surface and what appears to be something that is made of dreams, can be on occasion made of nightmares.
Be Safe, Stay Safe and always keep an open mind!
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