Saturday, 31 August 2013

The History of Video Games

While I was away from blogging, I found that occasionally I had spaces of time to fill. Thanks to our near-infinite supply of books, more than a few hours were so spent. But when the media of cadaverous trees was not enough I got into retro video games. Hence why readers have to put up with occasional posts about them.

I am far from the only one who has this peccadillo. The vast expansion of content on YouTube these last few years is fuelling interest in what the games systems of yesteryear have to offer. And it's not just folk of a certain vintage reliving digital nostalgia for a youth long gone. YouTube is stuffed with vids from teenagers and early-20-somethings going back to the roots of modern gaming - a bit like how dance aficionados might prowl charity shops and backstreet record dealers for Northern Soul rarities. As you might expect, growing interest has started to push the prices and scarcity of games that were once ten-a-penny up. Between five and eight quid are more or less standard for MegaDrive and Master System titles. Because they came in cardboard boxes as opposed to proper game packaging, kids just used to chuck the boxes away, finding Nintendo titles (for the NES, SNES and N64) with the box and instructions is a tricky business and the prices reflect that. Of course, notable rare games or in-demand titles command additional premiums.

One of the stand out contributors - in my opinion - to the YouTube retro gaming community is a mysterious American chap who goes under the name Dr Sparkle. His channel and blog has the unbelievably ambitious, nay, foolhardy objective of playing and reviewing in chronological order every single game released for Nintendo's Famicom/NES. Every Japanese, North American and PAL region release weighs in at about 1,300 titles. If that wasn't crazy enough, he has taken on the added burden of doing so for Sega's Mark III/Master System, the MegaDrive/Genesis and NEC's PC Engine/TurboGrafx. Presumably the SNES will follow and, far into the future, he might get round to the Saturn, Sony's Playstation and the Nintendo 64. It's truly a mammoth task and surely one that can never be finished. The original Playstation, for example, saw just shy of 8,000 games come out for the machine. Either Dr Sparkle recruits a collaborator(s) or passes the baton onto the next generation when he shuffles off this mortal coil, his mighty task incomplete.

Take a look. This is episode one of Chrontendo:

Dr Sparkle doesn't skimp on detail. Since 2007, he has produced 46 episodes of Chrontendo, eight instalments of Chronsega and four Chronturbos. Each of them are exceptionally well-researched and placed in the context of what was going on in the wider video game and computer entertainment industry. Time-wise, he is presently up to summer 1989. 

Should he give it all up now (please, no!) his productions already are a valuable and very watchable resource for sad folk who like this sort of thing, and those that might hide their geekery behind disinterested scholarship of the digital archive. His work, therefore, comes highly recommended.

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