The Fall Classic Games Tournament: A Step Back So We Can Move Forward
We’re pleased to welcome guest blogger Laura C. Allen, who came to our Fall Classic Games Tournament last month.
Computer monitors flicker on the right, projecting a scene of a metallic wasteland and blood spatters. TV screens on the left display tiny men throwing bombs and running in a sort of grid. Somewhere in a corner, someone draws a bead on a digitized duck, hoping that a certain annoying dog won’t laugh at him this time. To someone unfamiliar with the scene, this can be a little overwhelming. But for a gamer who grew up on these games, it’s like taking a step back in time. Suddenly we’re ten years old again, turning on the console for the first time and seeing the logo flash. Somehow, we’d forgotten how good this could feel.
With the coming of our more modern games like Call of Duty or Skyrim, these games can seem like they’re not worth much anymore. But they’re worth more than anyone imagines. Well, almost anyone. The Digital Game Museum saw the worth in these classic games and decided the best way to appreciate them was not just to show off the package art and do write ups about them. Instead, they held their first Classic Gaming Competition in the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, California. Three events were held: Super Smash Brothers, Bomberman, and Duke Nukem 3D. The cost to enter? A mere five dollars. All to a worthy cause, and for a chance to play games long forgotten but well loved. I can bet that a lot of these gamers have been waiting for this sort of thing to happen for a long time, even if they didn’t know it.
“Because It’s Fun.”
You could ask just about any gamer there why they came, and you’d get a slew of different responses. Some say the support the museum and its mission. Others say it’s because they are competing in a game of their choice. Some would say that they are there to support a friend in their competition. But there’s another reason everyone has shown up today, and it’s so simple they likely won’t mention it because it seems too obvious. It’s because these games are fun.
They were fun when we played them for the first time, and they are fun now. It’s part of what makes them timeless. They are still challenging to play in multiplayer settings and still entertaining to watch. If you don’t believe it, you’d only have to listen to the sounds at the event. Cries of frustration mixed with laughter ripple up from sets of people fighting it out in Smash Brothers. Mock threats fly between adversaries facing off in Duke Nukem. And of course, there’s a cheer when a player far far behind at Bomberman gets his first point. No one is frowning. No one sits alone. The idea of the gamer as a single overweight man with no friends in a basement somewhere is shattered here as new friends are made and old friends enjoy games of their youth together. All because these old outdated games are fun.
The Importance of Our Past
Beyond their entertainment value, these games are cultural relics. One might not think that 8-bit music and pixilated people could be considered culturally relevant, but these are pieces of our past. Not just personally, not even just in the gaming industry, but for our society as a whole. Through these classic games, we can see how technology in entertainment and gaming has developed over the years. We can track the growth of companies like PlayStation and Sony, and the fall of others, some that no longer even exist. We can also see what was relevant in our age, looking at who we depicted as villains and who we depicted as heroes. It reflects our morals and historical standing as a society, and losing that is losing a piece of our cultural heritage.
It may sound so easy to just throw away an old game because now you have bigger and better things. Glass cases and exhibits from the museum scattered around the room indicate the opposite. The art from games older than most attendees here is displayed proudly besides bits of info about when the game came out. The Digital Game Museum not only wants to preserve these games, they want to show them off and let the public see how far we’ve come and just where we came from. The money from this event will help in that goal and with finding a permanent home for the museum itself.
Classic Gaming is for Everyone
Maybe you weren’t a gamer. Maybe you’re the type of guy or girl who doesn’t think gaming, especially classic gaming, is something you could get into. You’d be wrong. Classic gaming is for everyone. Once you get past the old-fashioned music and graphics, you’re likely to find games either rich in plot or challenging in gameplay. And don’t be afraid of the stereotype. A third of the people at this event are women, and the races and ages vary widely. Anyone can enjoy a game like this, anyone can compete. All that’s left to do is to try it.
The Digital Game Museum has said this will not be the last of these competitions. Don’t be afraid to come. Even if you just want to watch or donate to the cause, it’s worth stopping by. Free pizza, good friends, and the chance of winning a little prize are things that you never grow out of. Much like classic games.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go plug in my SNES and start another playthrough of Link to the Past. It’s just been too long.
- Laura C. Allen
Thanks, Laura! Photos from the event are available.