While video games haven’t been around as long as comics, there is an important category system missing from video game collecting. What exactly are the video game ages? What do you consider a retro game? Should there be definitive ages for video games? I want to start the conversation by reviewing video game history and seeing if there are any obvious “ages.” Let’s look at the beginning of video games for now.
Why ask About Video Game Ages?
What started off as a search into the top-selling retro games of 2020 turned into a personal quest into finding out what exactly is a retro game. While searching- I found that there is no definitive time frame set up for retro games. Some people claim that anything older than 15 years is retro, others say everything up to 1996- after NES got discontinued. Then there is Wiki where they at least separate a Golden Age. then the rest of the “ages” are separated out as decades. Well, let’s dive in and see what possible ages there are.
The Very Beginning – Pre-Vintage
I know some people may be adamant that 1970s Pong was the first-ever video game… but it’s simply not the case. The beginning of video games actually starts in the 1950s. Games were created in a scientific and/or academic setting. Many people lined up to watch – but the idea of selling for home use was not the original expectation.
Then, in 1967, “The Brown Box” was created by Ralph Baer, who then licensed it to Magnavox Odyssey who would go on to create 28 games. Baer is lovingly referred to as the Father of Video Games. It was one of those games, Table Tennis, that caused a big thorn in the side of Atari’s Pong. Released in 1972 was Atari’s Pong. Atari was sued by Odyssey who claimed they had stolen the design. Atari did end up settling $1.5 million worth to Odyssey.
So, in my opinion, up to 1972 should be a pre-vintage age group. It was the start of Pong that really launched the arcades and then the home consoles. At least that’s what it seems to me. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
If you wanted to mirror the ages of comics, the Golden Age would have been the pre-vintage games… No. The Golden age of video games is the 70s and the 80s. From 1978(ish) to 1983 there is a huge boost of video game activity.
That being said – I’m hesitant to use Golden Age or any type of metal age names as the comic industry has really mastered their ages. However, to use the term Golden Age in video games, there is no denying that late 70s early 80s timeframe is totally the peak of the video game boom. Within these years, there were so many iconic things that happened. Space Invaders (1978), Activision (1979), Pac-Man (1980), Flight Simulator (1982), Donkey Kong (1981) and Q*bert (1982) were all released. Some of these aged incredibly well and are still releasing new games today.
Knowing this – I am so close to calling the age (if straying from Golden) the Arcade Age. HOWEVER, it was also the same time frame as the second generation consoles. Attention switched from the arcades to cartridge games. Many of the arcade games later would come out with a home console variation. Then, we could overlap again with the Home Computer Games that started popping up in the early 80s, as well as handheld portable games. Is it fair to name this time period the Arcade age, when there are also many home console/computer things happening as well? We could stick with the Golden Age…
Video Game Drop – Renaissance
In 1983 we see the first 3rd generation home console. Generally, most people agree that 1983 is the start of a new “age” or “era” in video games. The infamous ET video game came out in 1983 and companies went bankrupt due to poorly designed games. This did, however, create a booming industry in Japan with the creation of Nintendo and Sega. This lead to arguably the most collected and most valuable selection of games from the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) which was released internationally in 1985. 1983 – 1995
Some people consider the end of this age/era when the original NES was discontinued in 1995. Which makes sense; the NES helped to get the video game industry back on its feet after the 1983 crash – but should 1983-1984 be its own are/age? Should it all be grouped together?
What is Retro?
Then we get to my original question. What should we, as video game collectors/lovers, consider Retro? I’ve seen some people argue that everything up until 1976 should be retro- others say anything 15 years or older is retro… Here’s the thing- while finding out what retro should be, I also think it’s important to come together and decide these ages. My coworker thinks that the ages should be Pre-cartridge, cartridge, CD, code… Maybe it should just be the decade?
That being said- I want to stop it here at 1995 and see what you all think so far. I’ll pick up here in a future post after hearing what you all have to say. What am I missing? In honest transparency, I’m not a big game collector so I’ve been reading a lot and talking to a lot of people to get a better understanding. I want to hear from the real experts – YOU! Let me know your thoughts (respectfully ;)) in the comments and let me know where you would draw the line in the video games ages and for fun- what you would call them?