Retro VGS: Gaming’s Return to Proper Form

For someone that delves deep into the realm of “high technology” and “everything digital”, you’d be surprised at how much I appreciate things that are “analog” (or that are digital-representations of analog items). One of these things is…the magazine. I think magazines are amazing. I like to think of them–especially in recent years with their evolved page design–to be “mini-internets”. They are these 100 page or less cohesive presentation of whatever topic or culture the magazine is representing, and it’s beautiful.

That said, one of my favorite magazines as late is Retro Videogame Magazine. Outcropped from a Kickstarter campaign, this magazine covers–as the title says–retro gaming. Classic gaming. Stuff from the Odyssey to the original Playstation are here to take in, along with lots of newer developments that appeal to the sense of nostalgia, and perhaps even appeals to the superiority of style and function that classic gaming delivered.

Speaking of “classic gaming superiority”…we could be looking at a serious comeback. And it’s being made by largely the same team as Retro Videogame Magazine. It’s called: The Retro VGS. A system designed to bring back classic graphics (it can supposedly handle up to Playstation 1 style graphics), classic gameplay, and the classic gaming ethos (more on that later), with totally new games and developments instead of going the emulation route like so many others.

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Looks familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because “Step 1” in the creation of this video game console was in saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in design by purchasing the molds for the original Atari Jaguar! Without getting into the history of the world’s “first 64-bit console” that the Atari Jaguar claimed to be, I think there is a beautiful historical irony that the Retro VGS is going to bring back the era of gaming that the Atari Jaguar had largely ushered out of the market.

Now I’m not saying the Atari Jaguar was somehow an evil system, but I am certainly claiming that the Retro VGS has the potential to be a heroic console. I’ll explain why.

First off, you’ll notice that the Retro VGS has a slot for cartridges. This is key. The Retro VGS does not allow for digitally downloaded games. In fact, as I understand it, it doesn’t connect to the internet at all! When you buy a game for the Retro VGS, you are buying a completed product. On my podcast Sovryn Tech I’ve often complained about the fact that no one really releases a “finished product” anymore as far as software, apps, and games. And as a video game developer myself, I know it’s hard to really have a bug-free “finished product”, which is where I think the appeal (aside from money-making schemes) comes from to be able to update games, but I think that is a false dichotomy. I think there is a serious lack of appreciation for “bugs” in older games where you could cheat, or get stuck, or cause some kind of wild graphical glitch in a game that would later become a legend or an added–unintentional–bonus to the game. Bugs can actually be features, at times, particularly in gaming. Also, when you consider that companies like Sega and others will remove their games from app stores for little good reason even after you’ve paid for them, the importance of having offline, completed games that you can literally–via cartridge–hold the game in your hand, some of the beauty of the Retro VGS becomes clear. But bottom line on this point, I think selling finished, non-updatable games on cartridges is an exciting concept.

Secondly, the hardware that comprises the Retro VGS, from the cartridges to the console itself, is built to last. I’ve made the point many times that it makes no sense that consoles and games have “lifespans”. The Atari 2600 for many is still totally playable, and enjoyable today…DECADES later. Not just a few years. DECADES. And the people developing the Retro VGS are following that model by making it for the long haul. Want to play a game 30 years from now? As long as you can plug it into a TV and a wall outlet…go for it. The Retro VGS will be ready for you. I think it is fantastic to get back to the days when your console just plugged in, you plopped in a cartridge, and the system didn’t give a shit who you were and you didn’t have to put in a WiFi password…you just go to town on that game. This is all a part of that “classic gaming ethos” I mentioned, and it’s a breath of fresh air from our hyper-interconnected world.

Third, like the Nintendo 64, the Retro VGS brings back the “GoldenEye Scenario”, which simply means it will allow for REAL multiplayer action. People IN THE SAME ROOM with you. Oh how much I miss this. Granted, there are still consoles (PC included) and games that allow for this, but to make it THE way of performing multiplayer is wonderful. The friends I had made, the memories that I have, all very real (not something that is out in the ethereal internet) in the 90’s when this kind of multiplayer gaming came to fore…woo…to really have that back again by design is going to re-introduce the world to some wild times, in my opinion.

And this is to say nothing of the fact that instead of game developers concentrating on “more realistic graphics”, they will need to concentrate on great game mechanics and design, and great and unique gameplay to turn games into big sellers. Or the idea that we could have a revolution again in “console accessories” that was a concept that died off way to early in video game history. Even if the new console accessories were flops (ie: the NES PowerGlove), just to see some heavy experimentation in this realm again–which the inclusion of multiple standardized input ports allows for–will be exciting and invigorating for me, and gaming in general I think.

I love the Retro VGS.

You’re going to want to keep an eye on their Twitter account or their main website to see about further developments as there is supposed to be a Kickstarter campaign starting sometime this summer. Normally I’m reticent to back any crowdfunding projects, but the Retro VGS is one where I’m more than willing to take the risk. Because this needs to happen. Gaming has a one-way ticket to banality on its present trajectory. And I think the Retro VGS is just the console to shake things up, and it can’t come soon enough.

Let’s do this.

Carpe lucem! 

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