Retrogaming, Defined

Article by Jonathan Imberi

Retrogaming - Webster’s Dictionary doesn’t even contain a definition for the term, yet we are hearing it used more and more often. In a nutshell, retrogaming is a term used to describe the process of playing older games on newer systems. This is usually made possible through the use a program called an emulator. Webster’s Dictionary does contain a definition for that: “em•u•la•tor: hardware or software that permits programs written for one computer to be run on another usually newer computer”. The emulator translates the original game’s code into something that the current system can understand. It usually requires a more powerful system than what was originally used in the arcades in order to be able to run the emulated system and game at its original speed.

The concept is very similar to conducting a conversation in a foreign language, while relying on an interpreter to translate the message so that you can understand it. If the interpreter is too slow, parts of the conversation may be lost.

Retrogaming provides a way to relive the memories we have of the games of yesterday, in a world where arcades are rapidly disappearing. There are already many dead arcade games, whose function has been brought to life through projects like Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, or MAME™ for short. MAME™ provides a way to document the hardware (and software) of arcade games, while also allowing them to be fully playable in their original states.

Certainly, retrogaming is a lot of fun, but it also has its serious sides. Most retrogamers also take great pride in studying and educating people on the history behind the hardware and software being emulated. It is also worth mentioning that none of this would be possible without the talent of hundreds of programmers who translate each bit of the code for these wonderful games, most of them working only as a hobby. Led by Nicola Salmoria’s example, these programmers have since made several different advancements ranging from arcade machine emulators to handheld game emulators.

It is wonderful to be able to replay the very same games that you used to play in the arcade halls. Remember playing games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Mouse Trap, Frogger, Defender and countless other classics? If so, you really should look into retrogaming. There is nothing like playing one of the classics to relieve everyday stress.

So what are you waiting for? Start Chomping! Wocka! Wocka!

First Published March 2005