What Can We Learn From Retro Games?

Dig Dug, released on Steam as part of Bandai-Namco’s Arcade Game Series is a port of a game which turns 35 this year. Which does make it odd, writing about a game which is older than I am. Yet for all that 1982 feels like ancient history, within 5 years of Dig Dug we had Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania and Dragon Quest. So Dug has tunnelled us a nice time capsule to the end of the arcade era. But with so much progress in game design since that time, is there anything worth learning from Dug’s digs?

Evoking an Atmosphere

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is the first game on which I’m using my 1 hour rule and pulling out early with. This is because it is able to evoke such an excellently disturbing atmosphere. If I was to continue to play through Amnesia alone, at night, in a dodgy neighbourhood, approaching winter as my go-to game, then I’d end up a gibbering mess on the floor.

Playing With Processing

I’m quite happy to process my photos to with an inch of their life. Photography is about how you interpret the world, not just capturing it. So with some photos which perhaps didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, I’ve turned the tweak to overdrive on a couple of these.

The Perils and Potential of Licensed Games

Licensed gaming tie-ins with existing media have been met with groans ever since the infamous ET drove Atari to the wall. But in this most surprising of places, I’ve found that perhaps this class of games have been unfairly derided. I was expecting very little from Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders, having no familiarity with the source book or characters popularised in the Poirot TV series. However, this game shows the potential that comes from richly detailed characters and an already well-plotted story to draw upon, while also showcasing some of the pitfalls which can come with adapting an existing work to the game format.

Ace Combat Assault Horizon – Subjectivity In Games

Ace Combat Assault Horizon is dazzlingly mediocre. It works well enough mechanically despite some missteps but the story is entirely clichéd and bland, like the writers had aimed for Skies of Duty and missed. If this keeps up, playing through a game a week for the next four years doesn’t sound like the best idea. I originally jotted up a piece on the tonal conflict inherent in arcade war games, but it felt woefully inadequate when Brendan Caldwell wrote a much better piece along the same lines for Rock Paper Shotgun. Read that and come back, I’ll wait. It also feels incredibly American, complete with a climactic final battle against evil Russians in the skies above The White House. Yet it was developed by an entirely Japanese team. But most of all, playing Ace Combat made me realise how my own hangups and politics can affect my enjoyment of a game.

From Ace Combat to Zeno Clash – A Critical View of My Steam Backlog

At the time of writing, I have 204 games listed on my Steam account. I’ve got these through bundles, sales, giveaways and generally there are a whole lot which I haven’t played at all. Despite this, I spend the bulk of my time playing Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings 2 and Football Manager. So yeah, I like overcomplex strategy games with dynamic systems for me to screw with. But there’s a whole bunch of games there to form the nucleus of a more interesting project rather than continuing to develop scouting plans for dynastic prospects.