The Eternal Struggle of the Retro Gamer: Revisit Old Favorites or Catch Up on Missed Titles?

As I mentioned in a blog post a few weeks back, my “priorities” as a gamer have been shifting toward older games over modern ones. Most of it has to do with getting tired of having my ever-growing pile of shame looming over me and actually doing something about it. Just complaining about it as I continue playing new games instead out of a misplaced sense of obligation at staying hip and current in the gaming scene doesn’t make sense. I’ve been doing pretty well at this endeavor so far, deciding to first dig into the genre that I’ve probably neglected the most throughout my gaming life: RPGs, specifically of the J variety. But I can only take so much grinding (that’s what she said), so I’ve also started a few lighter games when I need to take a breather. It’s all been very, very satisfying for me to actually go back and play the games I’ve been lamenting about missing for years and years rather than force myself to slog through the latest Assassin’s Creed and only half-enjoying it.

I WILL beat this one day…

However, as I delve ever more deeply into the world of so-called retro gaming, another new and unexpected problem has presented itself: the urge to replay some of my old favorites. As I dig through my boxes of old games looking for the ones I haven’t played, I find myself grabbing just as many – if not more – of the games I’ve already played to death because I want to dust them off and play them again. Same goes with the retro games I don’t own and am looking to buy – usually via digital marketplaces because I just can’t justify spending $100+ for a game I can get digitally for less than 10 – where I come across all these games I already own or rented or borrowed back in the day and beat, also on sale for just a few bucks, and it’s tempting not to grab those, too.

So at this point, one might say something to me like “who cares? Play what you want to play.” And that is something I wholeheartedly believe every gamer should do – this hobby is supposed to be about enjoying yourself, and you should partake in the hobby in whatever way results in you enjoying yourself the most. I’m not pretending like whether I have fun via Option A or an equal amount of fun via Option B is a legitimate “problem” to have. But in the context of being a gamer and deciding how to best spend my gaming time, it is indeed a struggle, and one I am sure plenty of people have on a daily basis. Of course, we all do it all the time, turn on the TV and some movie we love but have seen 30 times is on and we just zone out and watch it for the 31st time rather than taking the time to look for/rent/order/put in a movie we haven’t seen but have long wanted to. Or put on one of our go-to CDs instead of that new one we took a chance on and bought 6 months ago but haven’t even cracked the shrinkwrap on.

Hooks me in EVERY time.

Yet somehow, it feels more egregious to do this with gaming because it’s not like we turn the TV on and Super Mario Bros. 3 is just already “on” somehow, so we say screw it and we pick up the controller and play. It takes an equal amount of effort to start one game as it does another, for the most part. So when I make that choice to play an hour of Space Channel 5 yet again instead of putting an hour into starting a game I’ve never played before, it still feels “lazy” but in a completely different way. And with my free time being pretty limited with being an adult and having kids and also having an awesome girlfriend who loves to play multiplayer games with me, a full hour of uninterrupted, play-what-I-want solo game time isn’t something that I have at my disposable all that often so it just ends up feeling wasteful to spend it playing something I’ve already played. At the same time, I also don’t want to just swear off ever touching a game I’ve already played, because I get a lot of enjoyment out of revisiting my old favorite things, be it games, movies, TV shows, albums, or whatever. And as soon as you start trying to restrict yourself too much and give yourself too many rules about things like this, you start to feel resentful and you don’t enjoy yourself as much. If it feels like some kind of assignment to be playing a new (to me) game and that I’m not “allowed” to run through Shinoni III again – one of my favorite games to periodically revisit – that almost guarantees that I’m absolutely not going to enjoy playing that new (to me) game.

I’m curious as to how other people in my situation handle this conundrum? Do you just go with your heart and play what you want, and if that ends up consisting of more revisiting than first-time experience, then so be it? Or have you come up with some sort of system to balance it all out? Please let me know and help save me from myself. I’ll be playing Shinobi III while I wait for your suggestions.