Saturday, September 18, 2021

Gaming On The Run (From Mother Nature)

 Sixteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck Southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. As I was leaving for what I thought would be at most a week, I grabbed my PS2 and a few games. When it was clear that I wouldn't be going home anytime soon, I went to the Walmart in the town I evacuated to and got a small TV and on a whim I bought a new game, Killzone. The little tv had a headphone jack and I was able to quietly play video games and be grateful that my family was okay in the aftermath of that disaster. 


Fast forward sixteen years to the day and once again I was evacuating, this time it was Hurricane Ida. Just like in 2005, I brought a console (a PS4 this time) and a small selection of games, and just like last time I had a small tv so I could find a corner and game in peace. This may seem frivolous, but it gave me peace when home was surrounded in chaos. While there, I went to Target and picked up a few things, including the last copy of Hades in the store. That, plus the other games I brought with me, gave me normalcy.

For many, video games still aren't viewed as anything other than a kid's toy. Many gamers use what happens on their screen of choice to quiet the loudness that sometimes surrounds them and fills them with anxiety. Some may use something as mundane as Angry Birds or in my case at many points, a shmup like Giga Wing to help them escape the hamster wheel of their day to day life. While this may not feel okay to some, sitting on your couch with a video game in the same way many spend time with a book is not so different.

In terms of both storms, I was lucky. I know people who lost everything in those hurricanes. Little things like engaging in your hobby of choice can be the thing that keeps lots of people from flat out losing themselves in the fog of that uncertainty and grief. A game of Ikaruga or starting my first few runs of Hades kept me calm while I waited to hear from my family who had to escape the storm. Everyone is okay, and Hades has more than lived up to the hype and Game of the Year honors it received in 2020. It may seem childish to see a grown man bring a game console and games with him, but finding a way to be your own peace is absolutely priceless when nature is trying to reclaim it's space and you just want to get out of her way.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Play What You Love, Even If You Have To Bootleg It!

I was originally just going to talk about the wildly inflated prices of retro games in the resell market, but in the process of preparing to write this I had an epiphany. One of the things that many console gamers have complicated feelings about are bootleg games. For many, using emulators shows disrespect for the games that we grew up on. I admit I used to be one of those snobbish gamers who thought I was above such seemingly seedy acts. I would see those plug and play things made to look like a Nintendo 64 controller that contained cheap variations of NES games that often crashed seconds after starting them and would be troubled. It's not that simple, though.

I have a stack of bootleg Dreamcast games because collecting for that console is an expensive nightmare. Have you seen how much a copy of Giga Wing goes for on eBay? The barrier for entry to owning older consoles has become increasingly high if you didn't keep them from years gone by or have been gifted them and it's honestly inexplicable why unless you have observed the manufactured scarcity tactics of some companies or the hoarding antics of collectors looking to flip "rare" games for profit.

While this isn't exclusive to retro games, I know it isn't unique to to just gamers. When things become trendy, the average person typically gets forced out. That's what's happening with retro gaming right now. The price hikes have made it virtually impossible to get certain games. A year or two ago I received two reproduction carts for Christmas, Little Samson and Panic Restaurant. Both were late life NES releases from Taito and because they didn't sell huge numbers, the price was never low. The current prices for those games sit around $1,200 for Panic Restaurant and a whopping $3,000 for Little Samson. There is no earthly way I was going to be able to get a legit copy of either, and while rarity is a valid driver of price, there's nothing happening that tells me that I shouldn't just find a rom site or buy a reproduction.

Nintendo recently went after and was successful in getting a website shut down because they had the audacity to make games that the gaming juggernaut couldn't be bothered to make available through their proprietary devices easily available and accessible. I have a version of Donkey Kong on the NES that added in the missing level that for some reason Nintendo left out of and still refuses to add to their official NES release. Those of us who love gaming and appreciate the older games that could be lost to time should be able to play these titles without having to pay through the nose for titles that one could get for a song a few years ago. We deserve better.