Join the Club

August 8th, 2008

toe jam and earl megadrive

At the end of the last entry I concluded that the best thing that we can all do to improve the status of video game is to think more critically about what we play. Even better, discuss games critically with others, constructively sharing our thoughts and forming collective conclusions.

When it comes to critical discussion of video games, us bloggers are usually at the forefront, shaping the landscape of critical discussion. It comes to no surprise then that two of my favourite bloggers decided to take the initiative and start up discussion groups within their communities to explore classic video games. Think of it like the ‘book club’ concept where a group of individuals come together to critically read and discuss novels on a regular basis except replace books with games with the conversation present online through forums and blogs.

This is a fantastic way to encourage deep discussion among enthusiast players interested in some good chin wagging as well as promoting the relevance of older games. Causes that both have my full support. This also allows players to go back and sample games that they might have missed the first time around, so far most selection have accommodated for this.

I ought to quickly introduce both of the ‘clubs’, I’ll write them down in the order of conception:

Together Retro – Retro Gaming with RacketBoy

Introduction
Discussion

Together Retro by RacketBoy has been running for a good couple of months now covering a great selection of games including Defender, Kid Icarus, Ristar and Lunar: Silver Star. I applaud the selections so far as each title wasn’t necessarily the most popular for its time yet still unique and ground breaking in its own way. The discussion seems very versatile with additional ‘extra credit’ games offered to more savvy participants and play time ranging between two weeks to a month depending on the selected game (for example: a month for Lunar, two weeks for Samurai Shodown). I also like how an emphasis is placed on different versions of the game, high scores and tips.

The latest game in the series is Toe Jam and Earl for the Sega Megadrive/Genesis. You can participate via the forums, registration required.

Vintage Game Club – The Brainy Gamer

Introduction
Discussion

The ever popular Micheal Abbot last month began The Vintage Game Club debuting with the brilliant Grim Fandango. Not much more can be said really, the club is a couple of weeks old and response seems enthusiastic despite some difficulty overcoming the game’s difficult puzzles (which itself has become a talking point of the discussion). Excerpts from the forums have also been posted on the The Brainy Gamer blog.

Grim Fandango is the game in question, discussion can be found on the forums, registration required.

  • I really love the concept behind Together Retro. Retro games are so much more disposable now – people are either collectors or pirates, and either way they’re bound to have huge libraries of games to choose from. While the more rare and expensive items are bound to get a good bit of attention from the collector, for your average 2-20 dollar game, it’s all too easy to quickly swap out for another one the second you stop having fun.

    That’s a far cry from what it was like when we were kids and had to plunk down 40-80 bucks for a single game (seriously, does everybody else remember those 70-80 dollar SNES games? Ridiculous!). When we got a game, we were stuck with it for better or worse and we enjoyed it, damnit.

    I owned more than my fair share of horrible games as a kid (though it’s only in retrospect that I see that they are horrible), but I’m willing to bet that I spent at *least* over a dozen hours with each, no matter how frustrating or poorly designed. That might not seem like much, but we’re talking mostly about games that, when played perfectly, wouldn’t take more than an hour or so to beat.

    The point of all of this is that games were nowhere NEAR as expendable as they are today. Hell, even if you happen to buy a crappy current gen game (which is much more unlikely than it used to be given the wealth of easily accessible and reliable information), you can just trade it in to cut some of your losses.

    This kind of mindset is all too easy to fall into, especially when playing retro games. Whether you’re a pirate that downloaded torrents containing thousands of games or you’re a collector that just bought a huge grab bag off of ebay, it’s extremely tempting to have ridiculous expectations for how entertained and comfortable you should be every second you’re gaming. Get frustrated? Can’t figure out a puzzle? Can’t overlook some questionable design choice? No biggie, just keep popping in different games until you find something you can stand to play for more than five minutes.

    I do my best to keep out of this kind of mindset, but lord knows I’m not invulnerable to it. That’s why it’s so great when there are further incentives to stick with one game for a bit – which is one of the many blessings I’ve gotten from reviewing games, actually ^_^ Some games just can’t be enjoyed that much unless you force yourself to slog through the initial boredom and disinterest, and having the journalistic integrity to not review games you haven’t thoroughly pwned has been enough to make me get a kick out of games I would normally put down after about 30 seconds.

    Holy crap sorry for the friggin’ essay, I guess there’s just something about your posts that makes me want to ramble @_@

  • I stumbled across your page not long ago — some good stuff you’re writing.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t speak up on behalf of the gaming “book club” that I belong to, the 1UP Squadron of Shame. It was born out of the concept of the “pile of shame” mentioned on the 1UP Yours podcast, those great and worthy games that you’re ashamed not to have played. The group has been undertaking “missions” to play through these games together and discuss them (mostly with a critical eye) since August 2006. Lately, a handful of our dedicated members also started a podcast in which they discuss their mission experiences (all members are invited to submit their own audio clips as material between segments). We’re definitely glad to see likeminded groups continue to form!

    http://squadronofshame-club.1up.com/

  • Hey Cyranix, thanks for dropping by.

    I have actually heard of that club before but until you brought it to my attention I was largely unfamiliar with it, which is why I didn’t include it. I’ll take a squiz at the link. 🙂