Reliving Youth, One Game At A Time

I loved my SNES.  I really liked the origina NES but the games on that were mostly crud filler.  Atari had more choice…  The SNES was a real eye opener as to what gaming could produce from Super Mario World all the way to Super Mario RPG.  I played hundreds of SNES games.  I remember a local corner store had a subscription service where I paid a monthly fee and could rent as much as  I wanted.  Boy did I get my money’s worth.

Don’t get me wrong.  I wasn’t on the couch all the time.  I was an outdoors kids by and large, living on the outdoor rink for the entire winter months.  But when the lights went down, when we had to be a bit quieter at home, the SNES was where it was at.  I can still clearly remember going out to buy FF6 at the store, with a sticker price of $99.99.  It took a lot of work to scratch the money together to make that purchase.   And it was worth every penny.


I went back to that model on the original XBOX.  A friend had a full set of roms and a good emulator.  I modded my console and put in a ton of hours on that.  Even the odd ball games.  Mind you, I think I put way too much time into Earthworm Jim and not enough into Secret of Mana.

I was thinking recently about my two little girls.  The eldest has been playing with our tablet for some time now and all around the educational games.  My tablet (t701) comes with an integrated keyboard, so she gets to practice writing as well.  Good stuff.  But if I want to be able to share my passion for gaming, I need to find adequate games for her.  Consoles today are not the place.  Outside of Skylanders, what kids games are left anymore?  Bubsy is gone, Kirby, Mario and all that are super complex today.  My kids love the Wii and that’s all fine and dandy but there’s more out there.

So I found an emulator on Android, SNES 9X, which for the lovely price of FREE, plays all my old roms.  I still have an old box somewhere with the SNES cartridge connection but ROMS on a tablet are a great experience.  The downside was control schemes.  Games from the 90s were not designed with touch screens in mind.  Enter my logitech gamepad.  I use that with Steam + Big Screen already (which is awesome) and I wondered how it would work here.  Given the integrated keyboard and powered USB slot, it was a plug and play experience.  So now I have a 10 inch portable screen and a controller to play a few hundred games.  And my kids can experience old school gaming with new world convenience.  Win win!

Good Old Games

I am an avid PC gamer, have been for nearly 30 years now.  I remember programming in basic.  I remember getting Quest for Glory 1 (called Hero’s Quest back then) for Christmas one year and playing that game for nearly a year straight.  I remember Dune 2, one of the first RTS games.  Civ, XCom, Commander Keen…  there were some absolutely amazing games back then when the ground was still being broken.  Then, as with all markets, someone saw an opportunity to make cash and the whole free-ware wave came in.  Crappy games, filled with viruses, for under 5$ each.  Consoles (the NES and SNES for sure) came around and gave you some very simple multiplayer games. The PC lost it’s way forward during the 90s, with only some sporadic content worth mention.  That being said, the games worth mentioning are the cornerstones for gaming today.

Steam keeps me going with my current game catalog.  I can find friends, play pretty much any game on it and access games from any computer.  There are a few tweaks I would like to see (like me playing XCOM while my wife plays Plants vs Zombies on the same account) but in the larger picture, Steam has done to consoles what consoles did to PCs 20 years ago.  Made them practically irrelevant.

One hiccup Steam has, and it’s by no means a killer, is that older games don’t get a fair shake due to the nature of the online platform.  Good Old Games can hook me up with that. I picked up the Baldur’s Gate series for 9$.  Interplay games are in a “pay what you feel” sale right now.  I got Stonekeep for 3$.  There are hundreds of games from the late 80s to late 90s available – some even from later.

A few neat points.  First, the cost is low.  I don’t think I’ve seen a game over 10$.  Second, there’s an integrated client to download everything about a game, even the manuals.  Often times, games had some obscure clue in the manual to prevent piracy or to actually help you finish the game.  Third and related to the previous, there’s no DRM.  There’s no always on, there’s no PC limit, nothing.  You bought it, you own it.  Which is damn cool.

I realize this sounds more like a sale pitch but my point is that there are amazing games out there that many people have never played.  Trying some of these out, you can see how games today have used those ideas and improved upon them.