I was thinking this week about retro gaming. Wondering what it is that keeps masses of people (including myself) playing games from 20 to 30 years ago. People usually hastily label it nostalgia and do not take the time to give it any deep thought. However, if you are a retro gamer you know there is something more to it. A lot more in fact. Although you may not be able to easily identify exactly what it is. Although it was the 16-bit era that really fine-tuned level design and game-play in general I'll use NES games as examples. NES games are where game-play was first focused on as an art. That's not to say there was never any good games and no focus on game-play before this time! Let's take a brief look at Super Mario Bros. I realize many modern gamers look at this and think it looks terrible. It's 2D not 3D. OMG! Generally there are about 10 to 14 colors on the screen at any one time and the tile design is obvious. OMG! Okay, so let's forget about the graphics for a bit. Just accept it. This is how it looks. Time to move on to more important things. Now people watching will see a little dude running and jumping. That is mainly what you do as you play through the timed levels. Based on many of the SMB type of games I have seen people making these days it is obvious they only have a surface level understanding of the game. One of the things that makes SMB so addicting even to this day are secrets. Many games from long ago had secrets and SMB probably was the biggest reason for that. Secrets in SMB include: Invisible blocks There are many secret blocks hidden in the game's levels. Some of these are useful just to reach other sections of the level. Others release coins. Others may have the "big man", a fire flower or even an extra life. And one may even have something that leads us to the next secret... Secret areas Some people seem to still not realize you can go down inside some of the pipes. Those are what I consider to be the sort of obvious secret areas. However, did you know there are certain places you jump, hit a block from underneath and a beanstalk will grow out of the top of that block? Climbing that will take you to a special area where you ride on a cloud and can collect coins. Random stuff You may have managed to jump off the blocks and land on the top of the flag pole scoring the maximum of 5,000 points and yet you did not see the fireworks display and wonder why. It works like this: if the last digit of the Time (remaining) is a 1, 3 or 6 you will get the fireworks display. And that digit determines the # of fireworks explosions you get and how many bonus points you are awarded. Beyond the secrets the game is packed with other game-play. When you jump on a turtle it flips upside down. If you then move into the turtle you will send it sliding across the screen eliminating any enemies it hits. You can run behind the turtle to extend the distance the path will be cleared. Although I have not done it, I have even heard if you hit 7 other turtles with this sliding turtle you will earn an extra life. Oh and of course every time you collect 100 coins you earn an extra life. Okay, I don't want to ramble on any more because many people don't like reading more than a paragraph or two per post. Anyway, it is the kind of stuff described above that keeps retro gamers going back to old games. The games were just... well... games first and foremost. They were meant to be played not looked at. And they were filled with all kinds of cool stuff for adventurous gamers to find. The time and effort was primarily spent on level design and secrets and techniques and so forth. Not on graphics. I wonder has this art of real game design been lost as more and more emphasis has been placed on the presentation wow factor through the years? Or do modern gamers just not appreciate such things? Why do you think modern games seem to miss the mark on the actual game-play side as far as the above is concerned?