Classic Gaming Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Classic Gaming RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network GameStop Moves In On Retro Gaming Market Thu, 07 May 2015 07:22:05 -0400 Critley Lynn King

Mario, Link, Pac-Man, and Sonic all share something huge in common. They all (and many other classic characters) were a large part of generations X and Y's childhood.

Classic gaming is where it all started, is where gaming skills and technology were developed, and is where characters were born that are still just as loved and viable in the gaming market as the day they first hit the shelves. The devotion and long-term fan base that classic gaming holds has continued to carry on over the years; it is no surprise that GameStop, one of the largest gaming retailers in the United States, has decided to delve into the market. Soon the gaming giant will begin testing out the sales of retro games and consoles in 250 stores across the United States and on their website.

Soon the gaming giant will begin testing out the sales of retro games and consoles in 250 stores across the United States and on their website.

Transactions will be the same for retro products as they have always been for current merchandise. Gamers will be able to sell their classic games to GameStop for store credit or cash value based on the trade-in value of the product. And this is exactly what has some gamers up in arms about GameStop's latest move.

Several concerns come up

The top one concern being why would anyone want to trade in a retro, possibly collectible game for a few measly in-store credits? GameStop is a retailer like any other; it practices good business by bidding low and selling high, a formula that keeps most companies profitable. GameStop is known for good deals, but to provide low prices they must buy and receive trade-ins at a lower price than the game's actual value, leaving some customers feeling low-balled.

GameStop selling retro games and consoles could ultimately hurt local gaming retail. With major game retailers such as GameStop being able to offer products at lower prices, it is hard for small local game shops to compete. Small shops' only option has been to offer retro, classic, and rare titles and hardware. Soon this one advantage in the market will not belong to the small business owners and local game shops could close, leaving gamers with fewer choices.

Another concern is that some people will illegally reproduce classic titles, attempt to sell them to GameStop and then the pirated copies could be bought by an innocent customer. Will the gaming store have a way to vet items being sold/traded to them when rip-off cartridges are easily and cheaply made?

Time will prove whether GameStop joining the business of retro games is a good move for the gaming industry or not. But, for now, the silver lining is that those games that you have been searching for at flea markets and in discount bins just got a lot easier to find.

So let me know, are you happy with GameStop's new move? Will you buy your retro games from the gaming giant or stick with your local mom and pop stores and flea markets? Would you be willing to trade in your classic games for trade-in cash value or store credit?

The 10 Video Game Consoles Worthy of Putting into a Museum Sun, 21 Sep 2014 20:33:16 -0400 mchiu

Now that the National Videogame History Museum will break ground in January 2015, I thought it might be fun to speculate what would be 10 home video game consoles that absolutely should be on display.

In researching this article, it brought back a lot of childhood nostalgia. I remember spending hours in front of the TV playing many of these games, and it was difficult to really sort out which would truly make it into the top 10. I really couldn't rank these against each other since each one is truly unique and groundbreaking, that there really wouldn't be any objective way to say any one system is "better" than any other.

So in the end, I present you with this list, which is not ranked, but rather, is listed in more or less a chronological order of video game consoles that should be included in any respectable video game museum.

1. Magnavox Odyssey

This console is truly the grandaddy of video game consoles.  Released in August 1972, and pre-dating Atari's Pong arcade game by 3 years, the Odyssey did not have any audio, was powered off 6 "C" batteries, (or A/C adapter sold separately) and used translucent color plastic overlays that players could put on their TV screens to simulate color graphics. (Yes, the games back then were only in two colors) It came with 2 paddles for controllers. For you younger folk, "paddles" were game controllers that were nothing more than just a knob that you twisted back and forth. Basically, in those days, game movement was restricted to just left and and right, or up and down. Later models of paddles included a button as an extra input option.

Notable Games

A total of 27 games were made available for the Odyssey by way of printed circuit boards (that were called "game cards") that were inserted into the system, similarly to game cartridges in later systems. Some of the game cards had multiple games on them, so there were only 12 different game cards that were released.

When it comes to the older generations, just about every game is notable since video games were so new at the time. For the Magnavox Odyssey, most of the games were essentially different variations of Pong, with games such as Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball, Soccer, etc.

Why It Should Be in the Museum

I think this one is a no-brainer. This is the console that started it all, and inspired future generations of video game consoles. The machine did not have any brains, however, as it was lacking a CPU. It wouldn't be until 4 years later until a semiconductor company came up with such a console... 

2. Fairchild Channel F

This is a system that I am willing to bet that most people have never heard of. Released in November 1976, this system was put out by Fairchild Semiconductor, which is better known as a company that produces computer chips, and was the pre-cursor to Intel. (A bit boring of a history lesson, but some of the founders of Fairchild went on to start up Intel, AMD, and other semiconductor companies in the Silicon Valley). The system came with an interesting pair of controllers that were like joysticks without bases.

At the top of the controller, was a triangular "cap" that allowed for 8-way directional control, but could also be twisted, so in today's world, it could be viewed as the analog control knobs, but they could also be twisted. This made it so the controllers were both joysticks and paddles simultaneously. As for audio, it made an improvement over the Odyssey, only in that it did have audio, although it came through an internal speaker on the console, and not through the TV speakers.

Notable Games

The system only had 26 games developed for it, and as you might have guessed already, most of the games were variations of Pong. Games on the system included Video Whizball, Bowling, Pro-Football, Video Blackjack, Baseball, etc.

Why It Should Be in the Museum

The Fairchild Channel F is the first video game console to use a dedicated CPU inside, as well as the first video game console to use game cartridges. It was different from the Magnavox Odyssey's "game cards" in that the cartridges contained Read Only Memory (ROM) chips that allowed the games to be programmed by software, versus the game cards which were a series of physical jumpers between pins of the card connector. One other important reason this should be in the museum is that due to the use of the CPU, it was able to produce enough AI for players to play against a computer opponent. All previous consoles required two human players.

The Fairchild F was truly revolutionary, but it never really achieved market success. One other reason it was so important to the video game industry, however, was that it spurred the development of...

3. Atari 2600 (aka Atari Video Computer System)

OK, let me just get the biggest elephant of the room out of the way already. Released in September 1978, the Atari Video Computer System (VCS) basically ate Fairchild's Channel F's lunch, and profited handsomely from it. For mainstream America, this is pretty much where home video game consoles all started. Originally named the Atari Video Computer System, after the introduction of the follow-up Atari 5200, the VCS was renamed to the Atari 2600. It shipped with 2 joystick controllers and a pair paddles. The original units also shipped with the Combat game, however, later models shipped with different game titles. 

Notable Games

In the section below, there will be some discussion of the E.T. game that lead to Atari's demise, but other games notable games on the Atari 2600 include titles such as Breakout, Yar's Revenge, Kaboom!, Adventure, 

Why It Should Be in the Museum

While the Fairchild Channel F was revolutionary as the first console with a dedicated CPU, Atari one-upped them by using a more powerful CPU that was cheaper, and thus, able to offer the Atari VCS as a cheaper alternative. 

Although it was not Atari's intention, it also spawned the market for 3rd party developers. Disgruntled Atari game programmers left the company due to not receiving any recognition for the games they created, nor receiving any kind of compensation for the smash hits they produced, and went on to create their own company that solely made games compatible with the Atari VCS. Atari brought them to court, but in the end, the courts ruled in favor of this new company, Activision. In fact, if you looked at the boxes the Activision game cartridges came in, you will notice that it featured a short bio of the programmer.

At the time, the biggest game in the arcades was Taito's Space Invaders, which Atari had licensed and brought to the 2600. This was the tipping point that brought video games to the forefront of mainstream American society, and Atari continued to license other IP to much success, including Pac-Man. Unfortunately, Atari also licensed the rights to produce a game based on the movie, E.T., and the game did so poorly, that it lead to the video game crash of 1983. 


Also, the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man is also widely criticized as another reason for the downfall. At the time, Pac-Man was a hugely popular game, and  had swept all across America, so the Atari 2600 version of the game was highly anticipated, but was a big letdown when it looked absolutely nothing like the original game. 

In the US, the post-crash hangover lasted until 1985, but when the video game market in the US started to pick up again, Atari was no longer the force it once was, and all the other competitors were nowhere to be found. In fact, it took a Japanese company to revive the video game market in the US...

4. Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)/Famicom


Released first in Japan in July 1983 and known as the "Family Computer" or "Famicom" for short, and later in the US in 1985 as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), this machine featured an 8-bit processor, and used a gamepad similar to the ones that we use today. (albeit, a much simpler version)

Notable Games

The NES was able to bring arcade quality graphics home, which helped bring back gamer's confidence in home video games again. As this is a Nintendo console, the most noticeable game would have to be Super Mario Bros. which shipped initially with every console sold in the US. Other notable titles included The Legend of Zelda, Duck Hunt, (which made use of a light gun) and Kung Fu. (which was the same game as the arcade hit, Kung Fu Fighter)

The NES also had 3rd party titles such as Konami's Contra, which is where we first see the "Konami Code". (up up down down left right left right B A Start) Also interesting to note is that many of the largest video game franchises today all started on the NES. These include games like Final Fantasy, Megaman, Metal Gear, and  Dragon Quest.

Why It Should Be in the Museum

Aside from the fact that the NES resuscitated the then dying US video game market, unlike its predecessors, the NES was able to capture the arcade quality graphics of video games, and bring them home. 

In order to regain consumer confidence in video games, Nintendo had also set up a strict licensing system that allowed it to approve video games for use on its system. Before the 1983 video game crash, there was no quality control, and video game advertising and box art greatly exaggerated the actual graphics of the game, and set up false expectations. Nintendo wanted to have more control over this, and game developers were subjected to a strict approval process that is still used today by all the game console manufacturers, as well as by mobile phone app stores. 

Finally, Nintendo was the first game console to use copy-protection, that made it difficult for pirates to steal developers' IP and resell them without authorization.

Besides, it's fun to have in a museum and to see kids' reactions to what a real NES looks like.

5. NEC TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine


The NEC TurboGrafx-16 (PC Engine in Japan) had a bit of a confusing name. This console was released during the era of 16-bit game consoles, yet it used an 8-bit CPU, but did feature dual 16-bit GPUs. The Japanese version, PC Engine, was considered to be the world's smallest game console with the dimensions of 5.5"x5.5"x1.5". This console also featured a gamepad similar to the NES, and used a very thin cartridge that was just slightly thicker than a credit card, that it called "HuCard."

Notable Games

Although not as popular as other game systems of its time, there were some popular game franchises that made their debut on the TurboGrafx/PC Engine platform. The two most notable would be Bomberman and Bonk's Adventure

 Why It Should Be In the Museum

Aside from the fact that it was an extremely compact system, the NEC TurboGrafx-16 was also the first console to feature a CD-ROM peripheral. The CD-ROM also lacked region lock, so US gamers could play CD titles, though the HuCards had different pin assignments between TurboGrafx-16 and PC Engine.

Also, later on, NEC released the TurboExpress, which was a handheld version of the TurboGrafx-16. It featured a 2.6" backlit, active-matrix LCD, stereo sound, and the same CPU, however, it's main draw was the fact that it could play the same HuCards that were used in the home version. 

 6. 3DO

The 3DO Company did not actually manufacture any consoles, but instead, licensed out its hardware design to 3rd parties such as Panasonic, Goldstar, and Sanyo. It featured a 32-bit ARM processor and internal CD-ROM drive. (this was revolutionary in those days) 

Notable Games

Since 3DO did not do very well, part of the reason is that it was missing an exclusive title that warranted someone to want to go out and get the console. Since it was slightly cheaper than buying a full-blown PC at the time, if someone really wanted to play PC titles such as Myst, Star Wars Rebel Assault, Doom, or Alone in the Dark, maybe a 3DO machine made more sense, but obviously, that really didn't happen, or maybe it was too niche of a market to grow out.

Why It Should Be In the Museum

I decided to include 3DO in this list simply because I feel that it should be an example of how not to launch a video game console. While it did generate quite a buzz in its day, it was riding on the "multimedia wave" that was going on in the PC world by providing games on CD-ROM. Unfortunately, due to its business model of licensing out its hardware design to 3rd parties, the price of the consoles were upwards of $599, which were double that of its competitors, namely, the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.

The company felt that since it had a very advanced system, the public was willing to pay a premium for it, despite the fact that competitors such as the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis already had a strong foothold in the US already. While it was ahead of its time, it wasn't that far ahead, and it was more of its arrogance that lead to its demise.

7. Sega Genesis/MegaDrive

Released in Japan as the MegaDrive in October 1988, and subsequently in the US as the Sega Genesis in November 1990, this console was probably the only successful console from Sega. In Japan, it did not do well against its competitors, Nintendo's Super Famicom and NEC's PC Engine, but it did acheive success in the US and Europe. This console was a 16-bit machine, and like the rest of the consoles at the time, used game cartridges. 

Notable Games

The Sega Genesis had a huge library games for it, with many of them being arcade translations. Some of the best known games include: Sonic the Hedgehog, Altered Beast, Battle Toads, Phantasy Star series, Mortal Kombat, Streets of Rage.

Edit: A friend just informed me that the Phantasy Star series started on the Sega Master System (the predecessor to the Sega Genesis) however, it was also a popular title on the Genesis nonetheless.

Why It Should Be in the Museum

In the US, the Sega Genesis was the main competitor against Nintendo's Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Its marketing was geared towards being like the "older brother" of Nintendo with games that were geared towards a more mature audience. While there was controversy over games such as Mortal Kombat, Sega allowed blood to be shown in the game, while Nintendo went on the more parent-approved version of showing no blood in the game. This eventually lead to the creation of the Videogame Rating Council, which was the predecessor to the ESRB ratings we see today. 

8. Sony PlayStation

Released in Japan in December 1994, and in the US in September 1995, the PlayStation was a CD-ROM based console that also used gamepads, however, the gamepads now featured shoulder buttons and four buttons. Later versions of the gamepad included analog sticks and "Dual Shock" force feedback.

Notable Games

At this point in time, we begin to see that in the market, titles on one platform may also appear on another platform. Certain games are available exclusively only on one platform, which makes the console even more popular. For the PlayStation, here are some titles that were exclusive at the time: Final Fantasy VII, Parasite Eve, Parappa the Rapper, Gran Tourismo, Metal Gear Solid, and Crash Bandicoot. 

Why It Should Be in the Museum

The Sony PlayStation kickstarted the 32-bit revolution, and the modern video games we see out today. It was also the first mainstream console to use optical media to distribute games, compared to the cartridge system used before. With CD-ROMs, and subsequently with DVDs, games could be distributed and stored in a thinner form factor, and contain more data for higher quality graphics and audio. The Dual Shock controllers and analog sticks brought a whole new level of play into the mix, as players could have the feedback in their hands through vibrations for explosions, or when they are doing some right or wrong, as well as having more precise control of movements.

Sega soon after introduced the Sega Saturn which also featured CD-ROM, but this is the classic case of the first-mover advantage, where Sony overtook the market. 

9. Nintendo Wii

The Nintendo Wii was unveiled at the 2006 GDC in San Jose, where it was originally codenamed the "Revolution". This console featured a new type of controller that was not only wireless, but also had a motion sensor to allow players to use gestures to control the action in the game.

Notable Games

The Nintendo Wii shipped with Wii Sports, which showed off the capabilities of the Wii, but unfortunately, it did that so well that for the first few years, sales of other titles did not fare well until the novelty rubbed off. Afterwards, other titles started getting more attention such as: Mario Kart Wii, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Wii Fit, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Epic Mickey, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

Why It Should Be in the Museum

The controller, known as the "WiiMote" brought a whole new dimension to gaming. While Microsoft and Sony were battling it out with their graphics capabilities and pure horsepower with their upcoming Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles, Nintendo realized that it would not be able to compete on this end, and instead, chose to focus on revolutionizing game play. 

At his keynote during GDC 2006, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata noted that in designing the Wii, they wanted to create a system that a young child could easily pick up and understand how to play, as well as something that would not be foreign to an elderly person. The "WiiMote", as the name implies, was meant to look and feel like a remote control, however, it could be used as an extension of the hand, and with a little imagination, could be viewed as a tennis racquet, a sword, etc. while being waved in the air. 

After its initial release in November 2006, the Wii was constantly sold out, and subsequently caused both Microsoft and Sony to come up with their own gesture-based controllers in the Kinect and the PlayStation Move.

10. All Current Generation Game Consoles

At the time of this writing, the current generation game consoles would include the Nintendo Wii U, the Microsoft Xbox One, and the Sony PlayStation 4. These consoles represent the latest and greatest of gaming technology today with some of the most advanced graphics capabilities, as well as the ability to play and purchase games online.

Why It Should Be in the Museum

The current generation of the game consoles should be featured in any video game museum simply to show how far along we have come along. With each generation of home video game consoles come with it a slew of advancements that set a new standard for all future consoles. 

Only the Top 10? Honorable Mentions:

As I was writing this, I realized that limiting to just the top 10 would be impossible. There are so many great video game consoles that were left out of this list that truly deserved to be showcased in a video game museum. If I could have an infinite number of consoles to feature, here are some of the others that I would also include to showcase in a video game museum:

  • Intellivision
  • ColecoVision
  • Atari 5200
  • Vectrex
  • Sega Master System
  • Neo-Geo
  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System / Super Famicom
  • Atari Jaguar
  • Sega Saturn
  • Nintendo 64
  • Sega Dreamcast
  • Sony PlayStation 2
  • Nintendo Game Cube
  • Microsoft Xbox

... and this is only the beginning. On top of this, there are also the portable consoles and their predecessors in the handheld game genre, which I have been a big fan of, and have been a bit of a collector. Maybe this would be something to write about in the future.

The home video game console market has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings in the early 1970s. As we now cross into this new generation of consoles, and with the advent of cloud computing and virtual consoles, I wonder what's in store for us 5-10 years down the line. Will game consoles still exist as they do today? Will consoles themselves just turn into brands and apps that we can access on our Smart TVs while all of the computing horsepower is done on the carrier side? Buckle up everyone! I think it's gonna be a wild ride!

What I Wish I Knew About Gaming When I Was 20 Fri, 05 Sep 2014 09:48:21 -0400 Stephanie Tang

While it hasn't really been all that long since I (and many of you) hit the 20-year-old mark, it's already felt like an age and a day.

What did we have 5, 10, 15 years ago? Can you imagine facing your young self now? What were you even doing? Deeply entrenched in the whirlwind life of undergraduate academia, just getting started on your new-job-turned-career, or...?

Time slips by sometimes without us noticing, and all it takes is a single electrifying moment to make us look up in startled realization: a 12-year-old asking what life in the US was like before 9/11, 6-year-olds who don't understand the purpose of a casette tape player... 8-year-olds who don't understand where the apps are on a GameBoy.

Just imagine those halcyon days: DLCs? What's a DLC? What do you mean "wait for an update"? What's a "face book"?

Things have changed: some for the better, some... not so much. But it's not just the stuff around you - you've changed too. And there have got to be a few things you really do wish you could go back and drum into your 20-year-old self's head - not that they'd actually listen.

Your wallet will never feel the same again.

One day, not so far into the future, you will learn that games don't have to be $50-60 each... and it will go to your head. There is no escaping it. What is this "Steam" you ask? No, it's not just for Half-Life 2 anymore... it's so much better.

You know it's okay to sleep more, right?

"Baby's first MMO." For some of us, there should be a Mylar balloon with that written in gold leaf, and a singing Hallmark card attached to the string. Now, perhaps you may not have gotten into MMOs in your 20s, but nearly everyone who ever picked up a controller understands gaming too hard and gaming too long. 

What started as the promising teaser of a million World of Warcraft demo CDs mailed out to everyone and their grandmother turned into a generation of kids who stayed up at all hours swigging Mountain Dew and screaming raid calls over Vent channels. 

During such days of our lives, prime gaming hours were between 9 at night up to about 6 in the morning. You might recognize a sunrise only because that was the telling sign you should probably get some sleep. You might have missed a few morning classes and ignored the prof because you were IMing your guildies during evening classes.

Someone, namely your mother, probably told you that this is not the way you have to liveWords like "addict" and "loser" may have been thrown around. (see Are You a Video Game Addict?)

But ultimately, you ignored everyone, had a crazy good time doing what you liked doing with other people who knew you in some ways better than your IRL buddies, and (hopefully) didn't end up repeating all your classes.

...But you know, making it into bed by 2 AM is perfectly reasonable too. That student loan ain't paying itself off.

Get better internet.


You're going to think yours is good enough. You can stream the odd video, people can hear you when you hop onto Vent and ROFL-chopter for a few hours with your friends. 

But it isn't. It will never be good enough. One day the words "Google Fiber" will be indelibly burned into your soul as one of your true heart's desires... and you still won't want to live in Austin. 

(see 7 Essentials for Every Gamer)

If you want to live through the zombie apocalypse... know your surroundings.

If late-night marathons of Resident Evil have taught you anything, it's how to keep the undead down. But you're not in Raccoon City, you're smack-dab stuck in your highly-indefensable two-story with plate glass windows. So it doesn't hurt to know a little about what's going on outside of your own four walls. 

Take a walk around. Enjoy a sunset. Ogle some pretty joggers. Maybe even tell her you like her Mario tattoo and hey, can you call her sometime?

In all seriousness, maybe you won't have to know the quickest way in and out of your local Kwik-E-Mart (through the window), but you will get those lazy bones of yours moving and remembering life outside of the screen. 

If even that's a little too hard to fathom... time to break out the DDR mat, and get your Sandstorm on. 

And lastly...

Online friends aren't second-rate friends, just because you've never physically met them before. They can be as good to you and better than the people you have a little closer to home. (see Friends I Make Online Are Still My Friends)  It's okay to love them. They're awesome. And they think you're pretty great too.

Don't worry 20-year-old me. You're going to be just fine. (Also, you can probably drop those RIM stocks now. Quit while you're ahead. I'm serious.)

The Evolution of Video Game Soundtracks in the '90s Thu, 24 Jul 2014 09:26:24 -0400 Josh Squires

The gaming community has a fractured collective memory when it comes to the history of games in general, but specifically when it comes to video game music. As a gamer who started playing around 90-91, I remember video game soundtracks evolving from the beep-beep-boop background sounds of carefully orchestrated 8-bit songs to the much more listenable 16 and 24 bit soundtracks and beyond.

For those who don't remember, there was a time when Video Game Music (VGM) was its own entity--an established and separate music genre which gave rise to the old-school gaming music legends we know and love (think Uematsu or Kondo). It had its own subculture anchored in gaming. To a degree it still exists, but this was a major development at the time. No one had taken video game music composition too seriously. This was particularly true for North American releases (Japanese releases had high quality scores as early as 1989) From 1990 to 1999 that changed--dramatically.

The Evolution of Video Game Soundtracks

Though superstars like Uematsu already had cutting edge soundtracks to their name prior to 1990, it would still take considerable time before mainstream gamers would take notice. Moreover, music for most video games at the time were very simple and rather generic (and perhaps also a bit grating).  With the exception of stand out games (largely RPGs, often JRPGs), the industry didn't get the whole soundtrack thing sorted out until the mid '90s. That's largely thanks to Nintendo.

Nintendo decided against moving from 16-bit to 32-bit, even though most of their competition was rushing to compete in the 32-bit space. Nintendo instead allocated resources to improve the quality of 16-bit games which meant investing more time in producing higher-quality graphics (like cutting edge 16-bit titles like Donkey Kong Country) as well as more listener-friendly and engaging music.

That was just the start. What game soundtracks like Donkey Kong Country, Castlevania: Bloodlines, and Super Metroid brought to the table were something other than frenetic sounds designed to evoke a sense of motion or urgency. They added atmosphere--a very distinct sense of place, emotion, and character. This was especially true in Super Metroid, the soundtrack for which evoked the feelings one might experience investigating a dangerous planet. There are haunting ambient tracks as well as energetic and sinister tracks. Unfortunately, the soundtrack really missed the mark with boss battle themes. These were often synth-bass heavy with no small amount of airy, shrieky synth sounds layered on top--a sign that video game soundtracks still had plenty of room for improvement.

There were slight improvements, but overall most games--particularly action games, were abused by what could only be described as a Japanese Prog-rock acid trip. I like Dragonforce and I maybe like a Dream Theater song or two... but this style of video game music was downright abusive. Have your doubts? 

What if every game you played for the next two years sounded like that? Welcome to the mid-'90s in video game soundtracks.

Of course there were stand outs. In 1996 Wild Arms was released and we all (well, at least those of us playing RPGs at the time) felt a collective sense of relief. When people talk about great game soundtracks, we all tend to gravitate to classics like Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and the like. Wild Arms stood out for taking that same great compositional skill and then applying it to a theme. A mid-western/ spaghetti western theme, to be exact. And here's the thing--it was good. Like, REALLY good.

Of course, Wild Arms retained a lot of the traditional JRPG musical tropes: Prog rock tracks, world music influences, and a propensity to get a little cheesy. The track "Bringing it Back to the Soil" is clearly meant to evoke some sense of a tribal (perhaps Native American) atmosphere, but really it's just a bit frenetic and oddly reminiscent of FF VIII's "Liberi Fatali"--you know, if it were performed as a tribal music piece.

Fortunately, 1997 was another banner year for the progression of video game music. This was the year some real legends were born. It was the first time I could ever recall other gaming friends seeking out soundtracks for games. In case you don't already know, 1997 was the year Final Fantasy VII and The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time were released.

One game took video game soundtracks in a different direction in 1997. Goldeneye: 007. The soundtrack to the game was based on the score from the James Bond film of the same name. The game included transitional changes in music. For example, you might start a level in an elevator and the music would be elevator music, but the music would change when you left the elevator. It seems like a small detail--and it was, but it also added a level of polish to the video game that made it more immersive.

It took a year, but eventually everyone had caught on to the fact that quality video game soundtracks mattered. 1998 saw games that had fantastic scores (Kartia, Metal Gear Solid, and Xenogears). Amid this flood of improved soundtracks, one stood out as entirely unique.

It is 1998 and we've reverted to the original, 8-bit Gameboy platform. This was one of the most unique 8-bit scores ever created for a game. The tracks more than adequately conveyed the sense of boyish (or girlish) wonder and determination that setting out as a young pokemon trainer might evoke and it was accomplished with a more finite palate of sounds than non-handheld consoles.

1999 saw video game soundtracks reach a temporary plateu. The top scores belonged largely to JRPGs who seemed as though they'd gotten into the groove of making beautiful and memorable video game scores. This was the year that Star Ocean 2, Legend of Legaia, and Thousand Arms came out. It was the end of a decade of major progress in video game soundtracks and the middle of this year we would see the final (for now, at least) change in video game soundtracks.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was one of the first games I or anyone I knew had ever played that featured music from bands on the radio. It featured a lot of underground bands that weren't on the radio. Names like Bad Religion, the Vandals, and The Ernies were the CDs I was buying at Tower Records or Sam Goody, but to have them in my video games in a context that made sense was nothing short of a gaming miracle.

The Modern Era of Video Game Soundtracks

1997 through 1999 set the groundwork for the amazing scores that were to come. It wouldn't be long before games like Halo were producing blockbuster film quality scores (that got better with each iteration of the game). Eventually, high profile composers would even begin contributing to video game soundtracks, delivering us video game soundtracks that rival film scores and eventually even be nominated for Grammy Awards  alongside Hans Zimmer and John Williams. 

Video Games: Why Graphics Matter To Me Sun, 09 Jun 2013 23:26:43 -0400 Germ_the_Nobody

I'm An Artist

I am a "graphics whore." I think that may be partly due to the fact that I spent many years as an artist. I loved to draw, rarely still do, but for years now I spend more time playing video games than I do drawing. And when I did draw, I would copy stuff, not trace, but copy. So I don't have enough motivation to draw my own stuff because my own stuff is quite horrible. I notice the finer details, I love them, I appreciate them, and I want more finer details. It's like the first time I ever finally learned how to add shadows to my drawings, that small extra detail made such a vast improvement.

A problem I run into because of my love for the finer details is that I simply cannot afford a PC to get the best out of it, dangit! But I will push my PC to get everything I can out of it even if I have to run at lower frame-rates, which is actually pretty normal for me.

If you're curious about why I'm talking about PC and not consoles, it's simply due to playing more often on my PC lately than my consoles, that is all. A huge reason for that is the price of games. If you want, you can read more on what I think about the price of games and my buying habits here.

Graphics still matter to me even on consoles. =p

Why I'm A Graphics Whore

The main reason to being a graphics whore, I believe, is just simply due to the evolution of video games. I started with Atari, moved to Nintendo, Gensis, Super Nintendo, Sega CD, skipped over a few consoles that my mom couldn't afford to keep up with. I did play every single system; if I didn't have it, my friends did, and being the little greedy gamer that I am, I played everything I could get my hands on. I had played the Turbo GFX16--I think that's what the name was. Out of all my friends and all the people I ever heard about, one single kid had the Neo Geo. Man that thing was expensive. Who remembers the CD-I? I wanted that just for the Zelda game! Never did play it tho. I think that was probably the one system I never actually touched.

I Agree, Graphics Do Not "Make A Game"

So, back to the whole "graphics whore" thing. Since I've played all these old games and been through all the advancements of video games through the years, I care about graphics. Do I think graphics "make a game?" Of course not, but that's far from the same thing as if they matter or not. They do matter. They might not matter to someone who's just started gaming and doesn't actually see the difference because they haven't spent the time going through all the stages of video games evolution. But to someone like me, they very well matter.

I enjoy games like Hotline Miami and They Bleed Pixels and those graphics look old to me; I do consider them "bad" compared to today's standards of course, I think it's silly not to. It's like going back to the Nintendo. Some people are into that, I am not, I've already been there. If I'm in the mood to "go retro" and play some of my favorite classic games, then I'm going to play my favorite classic games. I'm not going to look at a game made in the 2000's that looks like something I played twenty-plus years ago and be like "oh wow!" That does not mean I don't enjoy them. However, they certainly won't be at the top of my play list. This does not mean I think it's a bad game, I cannot re-iterate that enough.

I'll use Renegade Ops as an example. This is a top down view where you drive a car and blow stuff up. Real simple, this is a classic style game, this is stuff we played on our Nintendo's and Genesis'. The graphics are today's though, they are absolutely gorgeous. If I'm going to have a choice between a beautiful game of today and a game that looks like something I played twenty years ago, there's simply no competition. I'll likely ignore the game with graphics like that. Not because it's bad, but simply because I have hundreds of better looking games I'll enjoy just as much and probably more-so.

"Graphics Don't Matter"

When gamers say "graphics don't matter," not only can I not help and think to myself "a real gamer would not say that" (while I know some people think the opposite) but it's also an insult to the game designers and artists. These people are artists, they whip up these incredible gorgeous looking games and then you want to say "graphics don't matter?" I'll be honest here, every single time I see anybody with an opinion of that, they're opinion is meaningless to me and I simply don't care what else they have to say.

I don't mean to be rude. It's along the same lines if someone doesn't like a game that I really, truly enjoy, then their opinion means nothing to me. Am I going to listen to someone's recommendation of a game right after they just completely trashed a game I love and called me an idiot for loving it? No. But that's where I seem to be different from so many gamers. I just love almost every game I play. So that seems to be a problem when I'm dealing with the gaming community. If you're interested, here's more detail on my general passion for video games: 

Impressive Indie Games

Here's a list of Indie games that show me these designers and developers really put their heart and soul into the games and obviously far more time and effort than someone that put together a game that looks like it belongs on the Atari. Or they simply have more experience and it shows. Please don't get me wrong, I don't mean to say that games with "bad" graphics are made by people that don't care. To me, those are people that are testing themselves and getting into the line of work. Keep it up guys, you freakin rock! This is my opinion, I'm not offering it up as fact.

In alphabetical order, these all stand out to me:

  • Afterfall
  • Alan Wake
  • Anomaly 1 & 2
  • Bastion
  • Deadlight
  • Dear Esther
  • Dreadout
  • Dreamkiller
  • Forge
  • Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
  • Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior's Rise
  • Mark of the Ninja
  • Orcs Must Die 1 & 2
  • Sanctum 1 & 2
  • Shad'O
  • Shank 1 & 2
  • Sine Mora
  • The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
  • The Showdown Effect
  • The Swapper
  • Whispered World (not my kind of game but beautiful graphics and art)
  • Zeno Clash

That's not counting the one's I probably forgot (these are off the top of my head) or haven't discovered, and also ignoring Free2Play games.

Graphics Options?

I don't know any technical specifics. When I talk about graphics for video games I'm not talking about SA, AA, PhysX or whatever that stuff is... I don't even know what any of that means. I just hope my computer will pull it off. I am interested in learning the technical stuff but then when I try to it's just so boring!

Basically good graphics to me is this, "ooh shiny!" But I definitely notice the details, the small intricate details that show off the beauty of these illusions and dreams, these creations. The way sunlight beams down through tree's, glimmering deep colors that splash... I see it all. I often talk to other gamers that continue to insist that they don't need those extra details and this is why "graphics don't matter." Not for me. They do matter and I truly appreciate the work that the designers and artists put into these games.


As I've said, I don't know the technical stuff. I don't study the science of games, I just love playing them. Another argument for "graphics matter" is one I do come across from other gamers. They seem to be in the vocal minority, makes me laugh. The argument is immersion. You are dang right, my friends. Of course, you don't need high end graphics to be immersed into a game. You certainly won't be immersed into a game on graphics alone. Story is a huge deal, but not only that, music and sound effects.

Battlefield 3: I'm not a huge fan of shooting games, I love them just like I love others but they're not on the top of my list of favorites as far as genres go. Some of them stand out, and this is one of them. The graphics and music of Battlefield 3 had me fully immersed, and I give a lot of credit to that musical score. It was beautiful, soft yet hard, and put me in the freakin mood! And the graphics are gorgeous! The story wasn't super great, but I did like it enough.

I completed this game around at least four months ago if not longer and I can still picture my first time on the aircraft carrier in the game. I didn't realize I was on one because I think I was distracted by something else in real life at that point in the game. Walking along talking to my superior or whoever, getting my orders, getting to the door and it opening into the top deck of the carrier. The sunlight, the surrounding battleships, jets taking off and flying by. The wind, the epic music along with that wind. Climbing into my jet, checking my flaps, taking off. I was freakin nervous man. I seriously got nervous. I don't know if I'll ever forget that experience, it was incredible. 

Would I have been immersed just as much in an older or worse off looking game? Maybe, as long as the music and sound effects were just as good and the way the game took me through all these actions still happened, but the graphics sure do help make it an even more incredible experience.

And as I've said before, if I have a choice between a game that has worse graphics or better graphics but offers the same experience, there's no competition, graphics win. I'll still play them both tho. 

If Graphics Didn't Matter...

Even the developers wouldn't bother improving them. I mean come on now. Over all these years of playing video games if graphics didn't matter they wouldn't have gone through this amazing evolution over time. This is art, and its beautiful. I wish you would appreciate it more.

Game on! 

One Man's Quest to Remove Pesky, Valuable Autographs from his Collectables Mon, 29 Apr 2013 18:23:08 -0400 mchiu

In what apparently seems *NOT* to be a goof, this guy earnestly shows you how to clean an old Donkey Kong Game & Watch system thoroughly.

He does such a thorough job that he manages to cleanly remove the autograph of Mario franchise creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, off the faceplate!


This pesky marking needs to go. Just a little elbow grease, and it's gone!

It took a little of trial and error to remove that pesky autograph though. The author first tried using rubbing alcohol, but when that did absolutely nothing, he then used nail polish remover, and that did the trick! In fact, he even remarks how well the nail polish remover worked, since it only got rid of the permanent marker ink, but did not do anything to the original markings. He does warn to be careful with it though, since it could ruin something much more valuable, though -- the plastic casing.

The author does not believe that this could have been Miyamoto's autograph since he got it for $20 off of eBay, but do a quick search on Google for "Shigeru Miyamoto autograph", and compare it to the autograph on this guy's system, and you will see quite a similarity! I mean, seriously, it's not like expensive artwork has ever been found at a yard sale or at the flea market!


They sure look similar to me! They both have a picture of boobies at the end!

Luckily, Miyamoto-san is still alive, so maybe the author can track him down, and ask to have his Donkey Kong Game & Watch re-autographed!