Retro (adjective): imitative of a style or fashion from the recent past.
How easy is it to apply Google’s definition of the term to consoles? According to Wikipedia, ‘retrogaming’ (also known as ‘classic’ and ‘old school gaming’) is the playing or collecting of personal computer, console and arcade video games in contemporary times; a further description which doesn’t make the task any simpler. So how do we know when a console reaches retro status?
This is a subject related to a question posed by Brandon from That Green Dude in a post early last month, and one he threw out to the WordPress community for answers: do you consider the seventh generation of consoles to be retro now? He doesn’t agree himself but he also doesn’t think it will be long until they are. To tackle this conundrum, let’s first clarify what ‘seventh generation’ means and compare it to the others:
|4th||1987||Sega Genesis, SNES|
|5th||1993||Nintendo 64, PlayStation, Sega Saturn|
|6th||1998||Dreamcast, Gamecube, PlayStation 2, Xbox|
|7th||2005||PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360|
|8th||2012||PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox One|
We’re therefore talking about the consoles which are now around 13 years old. Is this time period long enough to justify referring to these machines as retro? According to a further definition I found online thanks to Paulie Antiques, an antique must be at least 100 years in age; vintage refers to something at least 20 years old (we’ll use ‘classic’ in this case); while retro refers to something that looks out of style for the current time period. So:
This still doesn’t feel right though: can the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox really be referred to as classic? Yes, there’s a big jump between these machines and the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii but using this term makes them sound absolutely ancient. I then decided to ask a group of gaming friends what their thoughts on the subject were to compare them to my own and here’s what this bit of research revealed:
That’s more in line with what I was thinking, and perhaps this commonality in our views could be something to do with the fact my friends are of a similar age to me. So to make this experiment more balanced and get an opinion on behalf of younger generations, I talked to my stepson Ethan (aged ten-and-three-quarters) about what he thought. Here are the findings:
So here we have yet another different set of answers when it comes to comparing the last four generations. Everybody seems to agree that everything from the SNES and Genesis and before can be referred to as classic, but from 1993 opinions seem to diverge. I wondered if this had something to do with the age of my subjects so I created a comparison table for reference:
|Console||Subject birth year and age at release|
From the limited views I collected, there does seem to be some kind of relationship between your age and view on whether a console is classic or retro. Could this be related to the fact that we start to perceive time differently as we get older? When you’re in your thirties, it feels as though a year passes in no time at all; but when you’re ten years old, even an hour seems to take forever.
I’m a bit of a spreadsheet-geek and so I’d love to be able to collect more data on this subject for a full analysis. If you’re willing to help, I’d be extremely grateful if you could complete this short survey which will take no longer than a minute to get through! Providing I can get enough answers for a comparative sample, I’ll reveal the findings in a post next month.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.