Retro Gaming Reflections

black gaming console

Every morning when I wake up, for a few minutes, the world seems to stand still. During these waking moments, I find myself wrestling with a profound sense of disquiet. In one of these introspective periods, I often turn to the past for comfort, seeking refuge in the nostalgia of simpler times. 

Recently, I rediscovered old computer video games from the late 90s and early 2000s, a period that now seems like a golden age of creativity and innovation. These games, with their pixelated graphics and rudimentary soundtracks, represent more than just entertainment for me. These are relics of a time when storytelling in digital form was still finding its footing, exploring new gaming territories with a sense of wonder and excitement.

The joy of revisiting these games was palpable, a brief respite from the relentless onslaught of contemporary society’s failings. Yet, this joy was short-lived. The technical hurdles of making these relics function on a modern system soon became overwhelming. To stem this tide of technical nightmarishness, I turned to purchasing a cheap PC from the mid 2000’s. 

For a time, I was able to finally enjoy some of my favorite games again. From first-person shooters, to space combat simulators, to real-time strategy games, I was able to relive turn-of-the-century gaming for awhile. But, even this joy was short-lived. Some of these games were much clunkier and frustrating than I recalled. Others would work for a time, then summon a black screen that required a power cycle. 

The frustration of dealing with incompatible software, outdated hardware, and sudden crashes turned what was meant to be a nostalgic journey into a maddening endeavor. It was no longer worth my time on this earth to fuss with a nearly twenty-year old machine. In a fit of anger, I cast my retro PC into the basement, indefinitely putting an end to my escapade into the past.

It turns out that I badly needed such a physical reminder of the impermanence of digital creations. What was meant to be a nostalgic journey into the past, a reconnection with the simpler narratives and pure joy of gaming, became a much needed transition from my retro reverie to a more enlightened state of mind. This sudden outburst of frustration marked the end of an escape and the beginning of a confrontation with my present realities.

My exploration of these retro games and hardware wasn’t just my relationship with technology or my longing for the past; it was a mirror reflecting the broader struggles of my creative journey. In my period of retro gaming reflection, I was, in essence, avoiding the complexities and demands of the current world. I was seeking refuge in a time when creativity seemed unbounded, and the possibilities endless. Yet, this retreat into nostalgia was a double-edged sword, offering temporary relief, but ultimately leading me back to the challenges I’d sought to escape.

The greatest of these challenges is to find a way to navigate the disillusionment of the modern world while holding onto that sliver of hope which drives you ever forward. It seems that meeting this goal head-on requires a dedication to spending every waking minute either creating new content or salvaging old works. 

No matter how frustrated or depressed I get, I must continue creating, to keep pushing boundaries, and to persist in my search for new forms of expression. In a content marketplace where algorithms are programmed to value immediacy over depth, novelty over substance, I must find a way to split the uprights. I need to somehow play the game, but bend the rules in my favor, in order to succeed at getting my voice heard.

But to keep this relentless pursuit alive, I must also remind myself of my ultimate purpose. By dedicating myself to my craft, to the exploration of new ideas and the refinement of old ones, I forge a path forward. This isn’t just for myself, but for those who come into contact with my work. I need for this passion to shine through, as exhausting as these efforts may become.

This path of content creation I’m undertaking is far from easy, nor is it free from setbacks and frustrations. But the only way I hold onto hope these days is by dedicating myself to constantly create and innovate. I can’t afford to remain a passive observers, but become an active participant through my writing. Also, these retro reflections were not wasted time in themselves, either. My recent experiences will be shared in future essays, and rather than spend more time chasing down old scores, I can watch others experience these works for themselves. As for what I hoped to derive from these retro games, a documentary-style novel is in the works for those who are curious.

~ Amelia Desertsong, March 6, 2024

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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