Beyond The Pixels: Retro Gaming

There are a quite few much-anticipated titles on the horizon right now, but many sequels and series of classic titles are also on their way.  We’re in who knows what number of Super Mario we’re on now, and beloved characters like Sonic the Hedgehog and even PacMan have gotten recent reboots.  For many teens however, these new titles are the only relationship they’ve ever had with these characters.

Hey, aren’t we as librarians supposed to expose our teens to new and exciting things?  So what, if those “new” and exciting things happen to actually be old.

Enter retro gaming.

One of the ways I’ve introduced it is by purchasing a Retron system!

For about $70, the Retron lets you take your teens (and yourself) down a road of amazing nostalgia.  Retron allows for high-definition gameplay of old-school games.  The most recent version, the Retron 5 plays cartridges from NES, Famicom, SNES, Super Famicom, Genesis, Mega Drive, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, & Game Boy
Advance.  The 5 costs a bit more, with a $160 price tag, but compared to next gen consoles, it’s a steal.  If you don’t have the budget for either, many old consoles can be found for close to nothing online or in thrift stores.

For building a small collection of retro games, I would recommend checking out your local resales, or goodwill shops. I’ve found classics for anywhere from $0.25 to $5.  Also, don’t forget to ask around, because you never know what friends and family members still have in their closets.

I promise you, one of the coolest things ever is to watch teens that are able to complete a level of Halo, Call of Duty, or Overwatch flawlessly, get tripped up on the simplicity of Ms. Pac Man. Have an Old-School vs. New School showdown where teens can play against adults, or encourage them to try and beat YOUR score.  Pair a retro open gaming session with a showing of Wreck It Ralph, or a gaming documentary like King of Kong or the Video Games: The Movie.  As a prize for a small gaming contest, perhaps give a way a plug and play game system like this $14 DreamGear.

Some of the funniest feedback I got from teens was shock that there was no save file, and that losing a level could mean losing the entire game.  A few teens were also happy to show what they did know, from having been introduced to some of these games by their parents. Most meaningful however, was the number of teens who began to think about how to create new consoles, and what the future of games could be, based on the past.

While retro games don’t necessarily carry the added transmedia components that many new games do, the endearing quality of them can be likened to the addictiveness of many of the apps young adults love.  They also have a less threatening quality to them that makes even the less tech-savvy teens more willing to give them a try.

So what are you waiting for?   Give it a shot!  Let us know how it turns out.


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