A few outdated circuit boards in a grey plastic box shouldn’t mean so much but last Saturday I sold all my NES and SNES stuff in a bid to clear some of the clutter from my house and I felt pretty down about it. I had been kidding myself that when my wife and I moved I would set up a little den with all the old consoles in a sort of mini-museum. Then I would be the coolest dad around when my son brought his mates round to show off all the retro classics that his old man had. Of course, this was never going to happen. I had not played these games in years despite many being readily available in-browser on sites like virtualnes.com. Actually, my first clue should have been fruitlessly reaching for cool dad status because as we all know, trying to be cool is not cool (neither is using the word cool but I don’t care, I’m not cool, my wife told me so).
I don’t regret getting rid of all those clunky cartridges and naturally it makes logical sense to take the cash but I am still a little sad, like a part of me has gone. I spent a lot of hours with those games and they became a part of my gamer identity for a long time. Games defined me but to a lesser extent, I left a part of me with them too. I don’t mean all that spit blown on the cartridge slot or all those saved Super Mario Kart lap times but something more intangible like Sauron’s magic ring or Voldemort’s snake. It’s hard to get across but when you spend so much time with something then losing it can be hard, even if you did neglectfully dump it in a hot loft for 20 years.
I am not a man prone to nostalgia or sentiment but it’s hard not to feel a bit wistful about getting a NES for my 13 birthday or completing King Arthur’s World or reaching that final level of Battletoads or finally pulling off that Spinning Piledriver or so many things. But those are just memories and trying to recapture them is folly. Leigh Alexander wrote an article about how gamers were over, an outdated relic, but while I disagree with some of her sentiment (as long as there is passion, even misguided, there will always be people attending that midnight launch or getting their ninth Mario tattoo) I would have to agree that this gamer is definitely over. I no longer want plush mushroom hats or posters.
Saying goodbye to all that stuff is an acknowledgement of change. I now accept that it’s not that I can’t, but that I don’t want to play Battlefield until 5am (although I may want to want to in my more pitiful moments). I would still say that I enjoy video-gaming but I am not in love with it any more. It’s like seeing an ex-girlfriend once the glow of love has burned away. You can’t quite remember why you felt so strongly back then. It’s a second loss but one that pushes you forward instead of keeping you in a room crying onto old photographs. I now play Trials HD with my 2 year old son on my lap, he pushes the accelerator and I do the balancing. It’s wonderful (and very difficult).
In some ways I have become the gamer that real gamers hate. I play free-to-play fodder like Ace Combat Infinity and have no interest in displacing the old Xbox 360 from it’s dusty home under the TV with a shiny new Xbox One or PS4. I don’t even care about which one is better and have no opinion about console wars. It’s unthinkable. I am now a casual gamer and I am not even disgusted with myself. It’s quite freeing really. I am a born-again noob. Besides, if anyone doubts my credentials then I can produce a PSOne memory card with a Bushido Blade save with Katze unlocked. It makes that tenth prestige look like a penny you found on the street. Oops, they are pulling me back.
So goodbye old friends, we had some good times but now it’s time to move onto fresh experiences. Well freshER. I just started Gears of War 3 which is 4 years old so I guess I am a de facto retro gamer anyway. Oh look, I am cool. Damn, almost made it.