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Monday, September 25, 2023

Video Games

Classic games making comeback on new platforms

The Wii virtual console brings back all of the classic characters that used to be featured on older video game consoles. | Courtesy of Nintendo

Xbox 360 is merging the world of online gaming with the feel of a 1980s arcade with its arcade games. | CouXbox 360 is merging the world of online gaming to create the feel of a 1980's arcade with its arcade games. | Courtesy of Microsoftrtesy of Microsoft

Nostalgia is something gamers are quite familiar with.

Even in an industry so obsessed with technological innovation, we often find ourselves playing the same things we did when we first started playing. We all have a few games that we look back on with fond memories and wish to play again and again.

The gaming industry has picked up on this lately, repackaging old games into downloadable versions for consoles, such as with Nintendo’s Wii Virtual Console and Xbox360’s arcade games. There have also been new games released to look and play more like their original versions in large franchises such as Mega Man, Mario and Sonic. But recently Microsoft has taken this trend to the next level with Game Room.

Game Room is a free service released for Xbox360 and Microsoft Windows that allows players to take their avatars into a virtual arcade room filled with old school arcade games to play. On paper the idea sounds great. The players are provided with a showcase arcade where all of the games can be played, and they can even create their own personal arcade of games.

Arcades are made of four floors with four rooms on each that you can customize with arcade machines and 1980s inspired backgrounds and decorations. Players can compete with friends, visit each other’s arcades and create challenges for each other to beat in games. They also get to see their avatar, that has mostly remained useless up till this point, interact in a full arcade room while playing games and doing 80s dances. It looks and sounds exciting.

The issue is twofold. One, you have to pay to really enjoy the service in its entirety. Two, the games are really old. And when I say old, I mean old. Or at least, everything feels old.

When we all think about good 80s arcade games we think of Galaga and Pacman, but not everything was that good. Sifting around the arcades in Game Room reveals that most games created in the early 1980’s were pretty bad quality. Most are barely recognizable from random lines and shapes and fail to have much more challenge than a game of tic tac toe. Some are barely recognizable as actual games. Sure there are a few standouts; Centipede and Asteroids present some pretty good 80s fun.

This would all be acceptable if it didn’t all cost money. For each game in the arcade you get a 10-minute demo, but after that you have to pay (with real money) to play. There are some options. If people visit your personal arcade and play your games you receive coins that give you further game plays, but in order to do that, you actually have to buy arcade games for your personal arcade. Ultimately, to get something significant out of Game Room, you have to throw down some cash.

If you do have some money to burn, here’s how the prices run down. Single plays of games cost 40 Microsoft points (50 cents). To buy a game to play on one platform, it costs 240 points ($3). Buying a game that can be played on multiple platforms costs 400 points ($5). Overall, the arcade games cost less than half of most games on Xbox Live, but then again, the game play worth is significantly less. As a virtual arcade, it costs twice as much as a traditional arcade, with games that are far more than twice as old.

So, the value of Game Room really depends on how much money you have to waste and how much nostalgia you have for old 80s arcade games. This is an odd decision, considering most modern Internet savvy gamers aren’t old enough to really have nostalgia for games made in 1980, and the Internet is already full of free games that play better than the originals half the time. There are so many other outlets for gamers seeking a nostalgia kick that are much less costly and contain much better old school games. But, ultimately, Game Room proves the true limits of old school gaming nostalgia.

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