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Power of nostalgia keeps retro-game culture alive

By Blane Singletary
Posted on May 2, 2012 | Columns,Opinion | Comments Off on Power of nostalgia keeps retro-game culture alive

In today’s forward-thinking world of technology, it’s always out with the old and in with the new, and this is a good thing. Technology and its progress impacts and enhances our world in more ways than we realize, or will realize.

But a certain amount of press must be given to yesterday’s technology: the previous model, the old medium, or the idea that was ahead of its time in its day.

Take for example the Sega Dreamcast. One could argue that this video game console was ahead of its time in 1999. It brought bold, new ideas to console gaming. Amongst these included online play.

Online gaming, and going online in general, is something as easy as turning on your computer, mobile device or game console. However, at the turn of the millennium, many people still had to take a few minutes to connect via dial-up, marginally slower than today’s cable or DSL. The concept of playing a video game with people on the other end of your phone line had been tried many times before at this point, but never quite got off the ground.

Enter Sega’s Phantasy Star Online. It brought hack-and-slash sci-fi adventure gameplay to the net. (Think Zelda with beam sabers.) Four people, whether they knew each other or not, could meet up and play through the game, level up and collect rare equipment as a team.

While not a huge success for Sega, it maintained a large cult following. Even after Sega discontinued the Dreamcast a couple of years later, they kept the servers for PSO running, and released versions of it on the Nintendo Gamecube and Mircosoft’s Xbox and Windows PC platforms. PSO’s fanbase was devoted, and stayed with the game for years. And many of them were saddened when Sega began to take the game servers offline in the span of 2007 to 2008.

By this point, PSO’s influence had been realized. Many ideas introduced in this game are now mainstays in massive-multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs).

But some dedicated fans wanted more, and as a result they began figuring out how to run their own servers of the game. One particular private server known as “Schthack” has a thriving community where 100-300 players can be seen online at any given time.

Schthack and other private servers have essentially revived this 12 year old game, keeping it alive not by subscription fees but by the community itself. One could argue that they have done more to support this game than Sega themselves.

As a tech columnist, I am always surprised and astounded when the power of enthusiasts comes through in a big way. It just goes to show that one should not underestimate the power of nostalgia, it can inspire people to do amazing things.

avatar Posted by Blane Singletary on May 2nd, 2012 and filed under Columns, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.  - This post has been viewed 15503 times.

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