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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Retro Gamer: Pole Position


I recently read an article in Retro Gamer by comedian, and guest writer, Iain Lee. He reckons that when you are looking back or reviewing old video games, it is advised you do so without the 'rose tinted glasses'. There's probably a lot of validity in this suggestion, but is it always this black and white? I am by no means 'having a go' at his views, just attempting to explore them further. I tend to remember the good games and forget about the bad. My nostalgic feelings towards older games are largely related to my childhood. I grew up playing certain games, with the enjoyable ones having embedding positive feelings, and bucket loads of satisfaction, that have never left me. But I can't help wondering, with my unwavering passion for old games, I am simply viewing them through the tinted specs?

When judging an old game, it is necessary to take a couple of factors into consideration, for instance, the social culture at the time at which the game was made and the technological limitations around the hardware. Something that looks pixelated or 'messy' today, likely looked quite 'the picture' at the time, and in most cases, 'played like a blinder' (and probably still does). I treat old games like older movies; I acknowledge the lack of lovely special effects, but still appreciate and enjoy them for what they were, relative to the time, and where we were. Retro games not only reveal a stark contrast between then and now, which leaves us with no doubt about just how far we have come, but they reveal a journey and tell the story of video gaming.

So when I read Iain Lee's opinion, which stated that "Pole Position on the BBC Micro is 'shit'!" I thought 'crikey', I am aware this guy is a comedian and thus expected to make controversial comments, but surely this has to be an exaggeration of the highest order? I know racing games have come a long way, but for as long as I can remember, Pole Position flew the flag for my BBC Micro! If you play it now, granted, it's a massive leap backwards, and obviously if you are going to compare it to a game released in 2013, it is going to be lacking, to say the least, but taking the fore mentioned observations regarding how one must judge an old game, into consideration, you can hardly call it a "shit game". Even by today's standards it still provides the player with a challenge and is fast paced; as a racing game buff, I'm already visualising playing it when I get a spare five minutes.

I'm fully aware that video games are ever changing, but I don't like the idea of abandoning my roots just for fancier, shinier graphics! I prefer to continue to cherish my good memories of playing Pole Position, warts and all. Not all games need a complex plot, simple but charming still has its place, just look at Tetris for an excellent example of this. 

I'm not saying Iain Lee is wrong, I happen to think he's fairly 'on the money' with most of his edgy or inflammatory comments. So maybe it's the reality that hurts? Perhaps I do view retro games through rose tinted glasses, but is there really any other way to view them, when so many feelings and emotions can be associated with a single game? Take Pole Position, this game saved me from the four channels, dark period of 1980's British TV. I'd eat, sleep, play and repeat, until finally completing a game. I remember a time when I really thought the graphics in Pole Position were the best it could ever be. Obviously, I cannot discount the fact that if I played this game today, for the first time ever, I would be nowhere near as excited about it as I am. But that goes for every game I love, and I've no doubt for most Retro Gamer would agree. The truth is, if you ever did manage to prise the rose tinted glasses off us retro gaming enthusiasts, there probably would no longer be a retro gaming community or magazine to accompany it, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

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