This past weekend I was helping a friend out with his comic expo booth. He had a few old cartridges, NES and ATARI, that he had decalled up to look like games that never existed. The ATARI cart was done up to look like a Predator game and the NES cart had a Walking Dead decal. While it was entirely possible that a deal for a Predator game on the ATARI 2600 was in the works, it never materialized on that system. The Walking Dead, of course, is a more recent development and would never have existed on either system.
Several people through the day stopped to take a second look at them. They either pointed out the anachronism, and got the gag, or they picked up the cart with a puzzled look and asked if it was, in fact, a real game. When they were told that it was probably either RBI baseball or Krull stored in the chips of those cartridges, they smiled, but you could see them deflate a little. A few also went on to mention how they liked older games better than the current generation. I of course jumped into the conversation with both feet since there are few things I like more than talking about old games with fans of old games. Though I suppressed the urge to voice it, the thought of celebrating the past at the expense of the present or the future, still made me feel slightly sour.
Of course it is really up to each person to decide what it is that they like, and I believe that they were genuine in their love of older games. It seems to me though, that denying the unfathomable bounty of games, and game types, that are currently available is sort of silly. It’s like saying that no good music was ever produced past the decade you were in high school. That may be how they feel, but it’s also sort of sad.
Being a person who sees game mechanics in most things, I briefly entertained the idea of creating a real version of the games on that table. I considered what type of game would be made of The Walking Dead on a NES machine. It seems like something that would fit right in. Maybe a side scrolling zombie fighting game, Contra or P.O.W with zombie enemies. Maybe a sort of Sim City, but with a survivor's camp to manage.
Each of those would take work and time. While it might be fun, you could never turn it into a marketable product without the blessing of the individual licence holders. My work and time could also be put into creating something original. I could even make something referential of old games, or properties like Predator, but if I’m creating something, I might as well make it my own.
While I still enjoy a lot of older games, and I like a lot of rertro styled games that are coming out now, I think that when a game really works is when it feeds that nostalgia without being a slave to it. The past 30 or 40 years of game development is available to be mined, but incorporating new ideas and new developments into retro style games can lead to the creation of something truly unique and amazing.
While I won’t be making a Predator game that runs on an ATARI 2600, it might be a fun challenge to image what that game would look like and then build something similar using all the new tools and techniques available.