This past weekend, I participated in a Tetris tournament held at a Play N’ Trade on the south side of town. It was ladder style, meaning that the person with the highest score at the end of the competition period, this time Oct. 31, won.
I entered purely for the joy of competition. I already owned the prize, a Retron-3 console, and I figured I could just give it to someone else. The current high score holder was someone I went to high school with, and I knew he had great skill. After paying my entry fee, I sat down and began moving the blocks into place as they appeared on the screen.
After a few lines in I began to get into what many athletes call “the zone.” My brain took over the controls as the digit counters went up. It didn’t feel like my best game, but I felt good about how I was doing overall.
Finally, I made what may have been my fatal mistake. I glanced over at my score and noticed that it was already well above the former high score! A rush of excitement came over me as my joints turned to jelly. My Tetris-stacking prowess became useless as I clumsily pushed blocks into the wrong places, and it wasn’t long until I was greeted by the two words no gamer wants to hear: “Game Over.”
Granted, I did well enough to win, but I felt like I could do better, which is great incentive to compete again when the next tournament comes up. And then it hit me.
Tetris is getting on in years as far as video games go. The first version was released in 1984, and the tournament was played on the version Nintendo released in 1989. The fact that we’re still playing and holding tournaments that attract large groups of people on this game 27 years later really speaks to not only the timelessness of Tetris, but also of so-called “retro games” in general.
In another example, let’s look at the prize in this tournament, the Retron-3. This console and others like it are known as “clone consoles.” These are new systems that play older games and are not manufactured by the original companies, since their patents have expired (think of them as the generic prescription drugs of the video game world).
The existence of clone consoles alone means that there is a market out there for people who want to relive or perhaps discover these games, and big game companies like Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft are taking notice by releasing these games in a downloadable digital format. While retro gaming may not achieve a majority share of the market, it is already claiming a considerable amount. Perhaps NBC’s old slogan rings true to this situation: “If I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me!”