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So what counts as "classic" gaming?


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I ask because I got my hands lightly slapped (and post deleted) for straying too far from the definition of "classic" in another online community. I'm not complaining, they were right, but it caused me to wonder how far back one really has to go in order to really be on topic?

 

So I ask you AtariAge, wise sages of all things video games, what fits into your definition of "classic"? Is the N64 classic but the GameCube not? Or do both count because they are both at least two generations back? Is anything released this century off the table? How about the Dreamcast? It was released last century but I have a hard time accepting it in the "classic" realm. Or is "classic" more about what a system does and less about when it was created? Should the strict "classic" definition be 16-bit and below with the need for a different title for later, but not modern-gen, systems?

 

I am very interested in your thoughts. Thanks.

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I think the word "classic" often causes confusion because it's incorrectly used as a synonym for "old", which is a relative term. To a teenager, "old" is anything that came out more than six months ago, but for someone in their forties, the Fairchild Channel F might be "old" while the NES is not, because the NES is what they grew up with. That isn't enough of a criteria for determining what is or is not a "classic": everyone would draw the lines differently, and we'd eventually have to call every old game a "classic." Not all of them deserve that designation, any more than every old book or movie deserves to be called a "classic." As you say, it has to have something to do with what a game or system does, something that can be evaluated objectively, not just how old it happens to be.

Several people have tried to present a more satisfying criteria for earning "classic" status, including Shane R. Monroe of Retro Gaming Radio. Put briefly, his definition of "classic" includes influential games and systems, old and new, which broke new ground in a historically important way.

 

Below is a summary of the parameters he offered for consideration in the April 2002 episode of RGR. I edited these for clarity and posted them in an earlier thread which asked a similar question about "classic" game consoles:

  • Modern games or platforms that break new ground are "innovative" until they go out of production; when they can be evaluated in their proper historical context, they can then be called "classics." (I think the Nintendo DS would fall into this category; it's certainly innovative, but it's still being sold and supported by Nintendo, so it's a bit early to call it a "classic.")
  • An old game that changed the face of gaming, either by pioneering a new gaming technology or introducing a new gameplay paradigm, is a classic. Examples: Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Tetris.
  • Sequels or remakes can never be classics. Example: The original Street Fighter is a classic; "Super Street Fighter III Turbo Alpha Championship The Movie 37" is not. The only exceptions are follow-ups that are outstanding games in their own right which remained true to the originals while extending the genre in a significant way. Example: Ms. Pac-Man is a classic, even though it followed Pac-Man, because it was such a dramatic improvement upon the original.
  • Modern rehashes, which borrow the name of a classic game but bear little or no resemblance to the original, are not classics. Examples: The original Galaga was a classic, but "Galaga: Destination Earth" (one of the late-90s remakes from Hasbro for the PC) was not; the original Spy Hunter was a classic, but Spy Hunter for the PlayStation 2 was not.
  • Officially licensed conversions (or ports) of classic games are not classics in themselves, unless they accurately capture the full experience of the originals. Examples: Pac-Man on 2600 is not a classic, but Pac-Man on the NES is. Donkey Kong on the 2600 is not a classic, but Donkey Kong on the ColecoVision is. Mortal Kombat 2 on the SNES is not a classic because it was "sanitized" by Nintendo (no blood, no fatalities, etc).
  • Unlicensed or unauthorized knock-offs and clones can never be classics. Example: Puckman on the C64 may have been a great game, but it was an exact clone of Pac-Man, not a classic in its own right.
  • Original games that attain an unusual "cult status," either good or bad, can be considered classics. Examples: E.T. on the 2600, Grid Runner, and Night Trap.
  • Movie licensed titles can never be classics unless they meet the previous requirement. Example: Cloak & Dagger is a classic game despite its tie-in to the movie because of its unusual history.
  • A game does not have to sell well or be "brutally overfeatured" to be a classic (this last point was included, I think, as a response to elaborately complex fighting games).
  • A port of a game on a platform other than the original platform can be a classic if it significantly improves upon the original without radically changing the gameplay. Example: Prince of Persia originated on the Apple ][, and the Amiga port dramatically improved upon the audiovisuals while remaining true to the original gameplay, so both versions can be considered classics.
  • A gaming platform gets a classic ranking based on the ratio of classic games to "crap games" in its library. Example: the Atari 2600 would rank highly as a classic console, but the SNES would not (because the majority of its library was sequels, rehashes, and remakes).

 

I can think of things on this list that I'd probably disagree with, and some additional criteria I would add, but I think it's a useful starting point.

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I would consider the "Classic" gaming generation from 1972 (The birth of the Magnavox Odyssey up until say the Fourth Generation console gaming era (SNES, Genesis, Turbo Grafx-16). 1972-1990. Then 1990-2000 I would consider it the retro era. Mainly 5th and 6th generation systems like the Jaguar, 3DO, PS1, Saturn, N64, Dreamcast.

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As others have said, what makes a system "Classic" is going to be a very individually subjective thing. For me, being someone who was born in '85, I define "Classic" as anything up through the fifth generation for home consoles and the sixth generation for handhelds (since handhelds evolved a bit more slowly than home consoles). In other words: I consider the original PlayStation, Saturn, N64, and the Game Boy Advance line of handhelds—as well as every console produced before them—to be "Classic".

 

Once you start getting into the more advanced and detailed polygon capabilities of the Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, and GameCube (and once Nintendo ditched the Game Boy line for their new DS series of handhelds) the systems just don't have that "Classic" feel to me anymore. Again though, this may be entirely due to me being born in '85 and growing up with the systems that I consider classics. Your perceptions may vary. :)

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Personally, if I were censored because someone did not agree with me, I would go somewhere else as well. "Classic" is subjective, so it is opinion. It sounds like someone may have abused their moderator power.

I'm kind of curious about this as well--seems like an odd reason for a post to be deleted, but without context it's really hard to know for sure.

 

..Al

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Part of me wants to say any cartridge based system with 2d graphics. So anything from Atari 2600 through to things like the Snes and Neo Geo. Though I could also see including the Saturn, PlayStation and N64 though this where they started to lose me. The thought of anything post N64 being considered classic just makes me feel too old. Even if some Ps2 games , for example, may be over 10 years old they still feel like "modern" games to me.

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I'm going to say Gamecube/PS2 and earlier. I think video games have changed a lot durring the last fifteen years. I'd say ever since Call of Duty and the rise of indy games and the death of the 3rd party the market has changed enough so that GC/PS2 feel like a time gone by. I recently replayed through Eternal Darkness and absolutely consider it classic gaming. Retro on the other hand I equate with 8 bit and older.

 

But I do also play modern games so I may have a different perspective. If you haven't really played anything newer then 1995 you're probably not going to see the changes.

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There will always be a revolving window of what is considered "classic" as the younglings continue to come of age and be nostalgic for what they once had. In this moment right now, I'm comfortable with the dividing line being anything that comes on a cart for consoles. This means the N64 forms a sort of buffer in that it had powerful capabilities but didn't benefit from the size available on optical media.

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Ok, a different way of looking at it might be to ask "When were coin-op arcade games at their peak and making the most money?" For me, I consider "core classic" era to be about the time that every store, shop, restaurant or convenience store had a few games running to take advantage of the video game craze, pick your year. Include a couple of years before and after that peak time and I arrive at my personal definition of the classic gaming era. Most of the home consoles were made to allow gamers to play on their televisons instead of dropping quarters. The home video game experience was back then, inferior to that offered by a real arcade game.

 

As home systems begin to equal and even surpass what was possible at the arcade, we start to leave the classic era and move into "modern" gaming. At least that's how I look at it in my personal view. Gamers born decades later will undoubtedly have their own definition of what is "classic". I'm trying to see the definition from a purely historic viewpoint.

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^ I like that definition, and have personally expanded it to when ports of arcade titles stopped being best-sellers on contemporary home systems. For me, the classic era completely ended once arcade titles were no longer a major influence in gaming.

 

That arcade influence was pretty much gone at the end of the 20th century, with the Dreamcast being the last system to have a significant number of arcade titles in its library. It doesn't matter that the Xbox and PS2 were in the same hardware "generation" because arcade ports weren't a noteworthy percentage of their game libraries.

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A general rule was anything from ten years before earlier. An unusually long Xbox 360/PS3/Wii generation has skewed that a bit.

 

That would put the PS2 generation as the latest classic generation, though I see merit in the argument using arcade as a driving force, of which only the Dreamcast had serious arcade roots, outside of all the emulated arcade compilations on the other systems.

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There seem to be a few demarcation points (from my perspective)

 

NES / SMS / etc and back exploded gaming onto the world. After the NES era it was here to stay.

 

SNES / Genesis / etc seem to have brought with it the colors and clarity to really bring out nice looking JRPGs and platformers.

 

PSX / Saturn / N64 brought out 3d to the TV in full force

 

Dreamcast / Gamecube / PS2 / Xbox brought the transition to online play with Seganet, XboxLive and the PS2 network adapter GCN to a much lesser degree.

 

PS3 etc on are where we are.

 

I was born in 86 so those are all major points to me. I guess the transition to online and heavily connected play is what I associate more with modern times and so I have 3 eras separated at the SNES and the Dreamcast points.

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It's individual interpretation, so what do you think counts as "classic" gaming?

 

For me, consoles with a 2D focus - up through the Genny/SNES era. It's about the years the system was active and the style of games, not that it's of a certain age or number of generations back.

 

I'm starting to consider the PS1/Saturn/N64/Jag era "classic" as well... not sure I can quite go there yet, but I flip flop.

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I personally put "classic" systems as the pre-crash systems. When people say video game classics, that's what I think. You could put the NES and SMS in there as well but anything beyond that doesn't fit my definition of classic. Probably because I was an adult and looked at those systems differently, even though I enjoyed them. There's just a different lens that you view things from when it comes to your childhood compared to the view you had from adulthood on, which the 16-bit generation was for me.

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I agree with you, AtariLeaf. I realize that's not a definition that would work for everyone. But for me, if it's from the 16-bit era or later, it's definitely not "classic" in my mind. And I'm really not comfortable with including the NES and SMS in there either, but like you, I could accept an argument for their inclusion.

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We talk about all kinds of games on Atari Age but don't be surprised to see most PS2/GCN/Xbox talk still going on in modern gaming. Plenty of Nintendo fans here but we're definitely a community heavily invested in the early 80s: Atari, ColecoVision, and Intellivision, plus some of the more arcane stuff that a bunch of us own and/or have played. That's probably the only stuff that we all agree on as classic.

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Personally, if I were censored because someone did not agree with me, I would go somewhere else as well. "Classic" is subjective, so it is opinion. It sounds like someone may have abused their moderator power.

 

It really was on me. I was all excited about my glorious Wii U deal that I made a post about it. My bad and waaaaaay off topic; I get that. However, it did cause me to take notice that the Dreamcast is discussed on a not-infrequent basis in the group. Like I said, it is hard for me to get my head around the idea of the Dreamcast being in anything but the modern era. The very very beginning of the modern era, perhaps, but modern nonetheless. So I decided to ask you guys. Partially so I wasn't coming off looking argumentative but mostly because AtariAge is full of wonderfully knowledgeable and (with a very few notable exceptions :P) polite people. You guys are always my go-to!

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It would leave less room for argument if we started referring to periods of gaming - golden age, silver age, etc. - like they do with comic books and science fiction books, rather than using subjective terms like "classic" and "retro".

 

Sure there will be some debate on where the more recent end-points are, but it will be less heated if someone doesn't feel their beloved 2600 is being lumped in with a PS2.

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I agree.

I'm on a French forum where the consoles are sorted by era/bitness. That is, you have pre crash 8 bits, post-crash 8 bits, 16/32 bits consoles, 32/64bits, 128 bits, HD era, and current-gen.

 

It's easy to refer to enough and it give a working setup. Even if you can always nitpick, as of course the Intellivision is lumped in the Precrash 8 bits even if it's a 16 bits system (sorta), the Wii is of the HD era despite not being HD, The Gamecube being 64 bits, etc...

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