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Innovation

Are legacy game consoles making a comeback?

I am not a gamer. I don't spend hours of my time in front of a computer screen playing games because quite simply, I don't have the time.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on

I am not a gamer. I don't spend hours of my time in front of a computer screen playing games because quite simply, I don't have the time. That is until this summer when I moved into my new house, everyone else buggered off back to their respective homes around the country and I stayed here with little else to do with my life.

After craving some childhood memories to return to my adult life, I downloaded and started playing an emulated version of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. I was like a pig in mud; the happiest and most content I have been in years, just by playing a game I hadn't seen in over a decade.

For Christmas 1997, my brother and I got a dark-grey Nintendo 64 console, the most powerful games console the world had seen at the time. The graphics were beyond belief and the game play was like we had never experienced. Considering that Windows 95 was still very much the focal point of the desktop computing experience, this console was absolutely essential to both me and my brother's upbringing.

At around this time in my life, each Saturday where my brother would go to music classes and I went to drama, we stayed at my father's workplace, a corporate workshop where he would fix cars, and played games on the computer there. One of my father's colleagues gave us a game out of the blue - the original Command & Conquer: Red Alert game.

This game was so old; it ran in MS-DOS for crying out loud. We mastered this on the old '95 computer, bought the sequel in the series and mastered that too. Thinking back, that was probably the closest my brother and I have ever been. Even though over the years I have had many computers and laptops, increasingly getting better in speed and holding more memory, I've never had a computer where Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 has not been installed. That's how much I love the game.

Without realising, I had been playing Counter-Strike: Source since the start of this year. I bought it nearly four years ago, and only reinstalled it using my prehistoric username and password in Steam, the engine which powers the community source system, and within an hour of downloading I was playing online again.

I remember when back in our first secondary school (high school?) we had a computing club at Wednesday lunchtimes, when the die-hard geeks would spend the hour playing a LAN game of Half Life: Counter Strike, the original version of the terrorist vs. counter-terrorist game. Even though I would go back to class at the end of the hour hungry and tired from eye-strain, it was the highlight of my week.

Can you see the running trend yet? My subconscious gaming mind has regressed to that of a 10 year old.

I asked my close friend Georgia Harvey, psychology student at the University of Kent, to close in on the psychology of why some students tend to prefer legacy consoles and game play to the modern action gun fighting simulations:

"The theory is that people are generally scared of getting older because it reminds them of the ultimate primeval fear of dying. Our prime instinct is to survive so death is our biggest fear. Because we can't stop it from happening we use things in life to calm our anxieties.

Consider terror management theory: in some conditions it basically sees us using things in our environment to displace fear of growing older, so the perfect way of doing this is by regressing back to childhood activities. The thought of rekindling our love for games we played during our childhood years then re-enacts the emotions we felt during those times - generally happy ones."

Sat next to her was Matt "Tack" Blacketer, a mutual friend with more hours of gaming experience than I have had on community service Facebook this month.

He questioned the older games for legacy platforms such as the Nintendo 64 and the original PlayStation, not the PSOne, and what made them so popular.

"Think about it. We were growing up as the games console market was really developing. They had fewer buttons than modern day consoles and the graphics were far easier to cope with than today's extravagant explosions and processor-hungry battles. With this current generation as kids, only a decade ago, the simplicity of the games and the consoles made it an easy transition from not playing games to then playing games.

Even the menu options and the game play scenarios. With GoldenEye [for the N64], you go around and basically perform actions - one single button at a certain place on certain things. With Zelda [Ocarina of Time, also for the N64] you would engage yourself into a fantasy world which made sense and really drew you in. Nowadays everything is so much more complicated and intense, and time is limited.

Games are used now to pass the time, rather than before. It promoted childhood imagination and mental stimulation, whereas now it's kill, kill and kill some more. Before it mentally engaged children and was a massive part of growing up, whereas now it's dull in perspective."

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The Nintendo Wii, out of all the consoles on the market, still registers the main concept behind childhood games consoles. It still has the relatively basic graphics capabilities, compared to some other consoles like the Xbox 360 or the PS3, which roar ahead with their graphics power, and has very few buttons in comparison to the other consoles out there. The only major difference is the input methodology, but it still enables the user (usually child) to engage with the game or program and become mentally stimulated like the "good old days".

Put it this way. Once my pay-cheque comes through and I settle the score with my bank, I'll be buying a Nintendo 64 on Amazon and won't be leaving the house for weeks. Sorry, children of Rutherford - some things in life are far more important than your welfare needs.

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