The Modern influence of Retrogaming

This article first appeared on Techsmart.co.za 

Timothy Kroon: GM Resources at Entelect

Many of us remember spending hours at a time playing retro, one-dimensional video games on arcade machines and home consoles as children. Today, these classic games are no longer exclusively for children, and – in spite of the incredible advances in technology and software, rendering the make-up of these gaming platforms outdated – they have in fact become a global and local cultural phenomenon, seeing scores of children and adults alike taking up the pastime of what is now known as ‘retrogaming’.

What is it about these games that have seen their sustained popularity over the decades, in spite of the newer, faster and more sophisticated games being released in their thousands every year? “There is something quite intangible about the cult-hit phenomenon surrounding many of these games, which sees them still revered and enjoyed by gaming enthusiasts and novice players today,” says Timothy Kroon, General Manger of Resourcing at Entelect.

Retrogaming, also referred to as classic gaming or old-school gaming, describes the playing and collecting of vintage PC, console, and arcade games. “As most of the systems which these games were intended to run on are now obsolete, players either source the rare original hardware, or play them on newer devices through an emulation process,” explains Kroon. According to Kroon, most retro-games which have become re-popularised were created during the 1980s and 1990s. “Videogames were introduced to the consumer in the 1950s, but the 1970s are considered the golden age of videogames, seeing the release of still popular titles such as Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers, Sonic, Galazian and Frogger. In more recent times, these games regained their notoriety among consumers, driven by an appreciation for the simplicity and individualised challenge of many of these games, as well as a sense of nostalgia.

“This is particularly true for gaming enthusiasts as well as many members of the development and coding community, which forms part of why the annual Entelect R100K Challenge is traditionally based on a cult classic gaming platform,” Kroon continues. The increasingly popular R100K Challenge is an annual artificial intelligence (AI) coding competition aimed at novice to expert gamers and developers, in association with NAG and official product sponsor, Sony Mobile. Launched in 2012, the Challenge has been themed annually around a different retro-game, seeing previous years pay homage to Pac Man Battle City and Tron Legacy, while this year’s competition is based on the popular retro-game, Space Invaders.

“The personality types of our entrants, whether entering the novice or expert gamers and developer categories, show a great affiliation and appreciation for classic games, and we believe this is a key driver in the outstanding interest and enthusiasm the R100K Challenge has received since its inception,” he notes. Kroon goes on to say that these classic games have the added benefit of a simpler and more basic construction than the highly designed and complex games developed today. “This allows for easier modification and element development during the Challenge.”

The popularity of retrogaming shows no signs of slowing down, and the cultural phenomenon is permeating mainstream popular culture through various means such as social media, the press, and films such as the recently released retro-themed movie, Pixels. “As the retrogaming culture grows and spreads throughout new audiences and generations, the increasing rarity of original hardware also makes accessories more sought after by dedicated fans. With new technologies being developed on which these games can be played, a wide variety of classic game re-makes being released, creative retrogaming projects being driven through platforms such a Kickstarter, as well as the adoptions of classic game references in large events and corporate initiatives such as the Entelect R100K Challenge, the ability of these games to influence both modern culture and business continues to grow and present new opportunities,” Kroon concludes.

Inspiring aid for children in need

KIDS STUFF: Robyn Brown shares a story with children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre. Photo: Provided

KIDS STUFF: Robyn Brown shares a story with children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre. Photo: Provided

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on July 14, 2013

NELSON Mandela’s love for children has inspired a Vodacom change the world volunteer to spend Mandela Day this week reading and playing with a group from a poor community.

Robyn Brown has already been doing her bit for charity as one of 20 volunteers in the initiative, in association with Times Media Group, that allows professionals to work with a charity of their choice for a year and be paid for it.

Brown, an outreach programme facilitator at Bright Start, will be reading storybooks and enjoying games with the children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre, which caters for 105 children from an informal settlement near Hout Bay.

Her chosen charity, Bright Start, offers educational support to children from disadvantaged homes. it will help her with a campaign  to encourage Cape Town people to donate books and toys for Wavecrest.

Another volunteer, Norma Young, communication officer for LEAP Science and Maths Schools, said a quiz show called “Are you smarter than a LEAP grader” would put five of their pupils against adult members of various corporations. Other volunteers who are going all out to do their bit for Mandela Day include:

  • Caitlin Longamn has orgainsed massages for elderly residents of Park Care Centre in Johannesburg;
  • Michael Stevens, from Jumping Kids Prosthetic Fund, in association with Avis, will donate chalkboards to rural schools around the country;
  • Kilptown Youth Programme’s Stephanie Venter will organise eye tests for 300 pupils, because poor eyesight might affect their ability to do their homework and study;
  • A five-ton food collection container has been placed at Benmore Gardens shopping centre in northern Johannesburg by the Afrika Tikkun organisation, whose volunteer, Naazneen Tarmohamed, will distribute food to needy people; and,
  • Alta Brown Steenkamp, who works for the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, is organising bikers from Gauteng to Limpopo to build a wendy house, playground, vegetable garden and fence for a Limpopo orphanage.

“Mandela once said education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” Brown said. “So I’m happy to be fulfilling the spirit and purpose of Mandela Day.

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