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  • Writer's pictureRob George

Week 5 Research: Who are the Retro and Contemporary Gamers?

Updated: Dec 3, 2020


The goal of this research was to find who the retro gamers of the U.S. are and who the younger generations of gamers are. I want to compare and contrast the two types of gamers. The ones who grew up with retro gaming and the ones who didn't. Why? To get a better understanding of who is a true retro gamer that experiences the pure nostalgia of retro gaming.



Here's what I have already found out in my initial research:

Retro Gamers:

Grew up in the 1970s-1990s era

The majority are now 34+ years old

They now have money to rediscover the games they used to play or discover

the games they didn't get to play.

Found a list of websites where they communicate with each other

They have positive feelings when playing.

Two types of collectors: Those who collect for value and those who collect

to play.


General Gamers:

65% of U.S. are gamers (almost 215 million people).

70% of U.S. kids and 64% of U.S. adults.

59% male and 41% female

65% play with others (online and in person)

50% say it helps them spend time with family.

80% say it provides mental stimulation and stress relief.

30% say they have met good friends or partners through gaming.




I'm going to be honest, I did not manage my time very well this past week for this research category. I didn't find as much as I wanted to but I do think the sources I did find were great and just what I needed to further understand the culture. The majority of these sources are video-based and I thought they also captured some great visuals. I will be continuing to search in this category of retro gaming as I advance to the next category which is the history of retro and contemporary gaming. I will provide an update post on this category in the future.

Netflix Documentary: High Score (2020)

I've recently started watching a documentary on Netflix called High Score. The documentary is about the retro gaming culture and how it evolved. It has a few brief interviews with well known names in the community and I believe they captured the essence of retro gamers perfectly. So far it seems like a great source. I hope as I continue to explore this there is some information about today's gamers, specifically in the U.S. I've only watched about 1 . 5/6 episodes so far but found some valuable data for this weeks research:

Episode 1: Boom and Bust

People interviewed in this episode:

Tomohiro Nishikado - Created space invaders and released it on Atari.

Rabecca Ann Heinemann - American Atari Video Game Champion of 1980. Won first place in the first video game competition. Paid $1 to get in, didn't have any skills just played. Says it allowed her to be herself and when she was playing it was the only place where she could find solace and peace. Continues to play retro games.

Doug McCray, Steve Golson, and Mike Horowitz - created kits that would make arcade games a bit more challenging. Made profits from it by installing arcade games in dorms at MIT and used their own "kits" to modify them. They eventually partnered with Atari and created Ms. Pacman.

Toru Iwatani - Created Pacman. Teenaged girls were most attracted to the game because they thought it was cute.

Jerry Lawson - Electronic engineer who developed the first gaming console with interchangeable cartridges "Channel F."

Howard Scott Warshaw - Developer for Atari - Created Yars' Revenge and Raiders of the Lost Arch. Created the ET game that everyone hated due to poor gameplay and graphics. Only had 5 weeks to create it which is one of the main reasons it failed.

What I learned about these people:

They are all 34+ years old, they have feelings of happiness when it comes to older consoles and arcade games, it's all about being in their own world and sharing their happiness and interests with others. Everyone who loves these games can talk to each other with ease no matter where they come from.

YouTube: Positives and Negatives of the Retro Gaming Community

There are a good amount of retro gaming YouTube channels that I still need to check out but I happened to stumble upon this great video by John Hancock. He was asked a few questions about his perspective of the retro gaming community and he explains how it has affected his life and how he views the community. The majority of people who commented were all giving positive feedback as well.

About John:

Has been collecting for 25+ years and his main purpose is to share his collection with others. Says it will eventually leave his home for a museum or something so that it can continue to be shared with others. I feel he is practically preserving the memories of gaming past and visually sharing it with others in his videos.

The Community:

It's all about working together, playing as a team, talking and sharing experiences, and knowledge of retro gaming. You meet a lot of friends through online forums and Facebook groups, it's a very diverse community and everyone is connected through the games. YouTube is a great place for him and other retro gamers to connect because it allows people to share their content and experiences through videos and comments.

Strength: Diverse Community - provides opportunity to hear different stories and learn from many different people.

Weakness: Gamers and Collectors clash every now and then online. There are people who will try to tell others how they should be collecting and what they should play. Like any culture/community, there are many passionate people who just cause problems, but for the retro community, the majority try to help each other and become friends.

Choice: "You can be part of the drama or part of the solution." Challenge: Retro gamers can get so passionate that they can't see the whole person or discussion and just want people to know their experience or story. "Negativity is more of an individual problem in the community."

Emotionally: Can be exhausting balancing daily life with his love for retro gaming. Loves seeing people work together to solve problems in retro gaming such as trying to play video games on modern TVs, collecting and pricing issues, etc.

There are great interactions of retro gamers in the comments who all share their experiences with the community. Below is an example of some comments.

Statistics: Entertainment Software Association "ESA" (2020)

I found this site that verifies the data discovered in my initial research. They had also created data visualization of these stats to make it easier to understand which I thought was great visual research.

Facebook Groups: Retro Game Fans, Retro Gaming 101, Retro Video Game Collectors Buy Sell and Trade, Retro City Video Games, Nintendo GameCube Enthusiasts.

Over the past few months I have been joining retro gaming groups on Facebook to learn about collecting and see what others are playing. These groups mainly consist of people who's ages are around the 34-44+ range and they post their collections, games for sale, as well as discussions related to retro gaming. I am thinking of ways to start discussions in these groups that could tell me a little more about not only the older gamers in retro gaming but the younger gamers.

Modern Gaming: For the Uninitiated and Bored, an Introduction to the World of Gaming (2020)

Social platforms gamers have been using:

Discord: Free voice chat and text

Twitch: Popular gamer streaming service - live gameplay videos

YouTube: Prerecorded videos - gamers use this for gameplays, reviews, discussions, record playing with friends, etc.

Ways to play:

Computer: PC or Desktop

Stores: Steam and as an alternative, Epic Games Store (Windows and Mac) Works best with Windows PC - "Users tend to be ruthless critiques; when a game gets great reviews on Steam, it is probably worth your money."

Store: Google Stadia - Cloud Gaming Service - fast action games playable on most TVs and computers that run Chrome. No Console needed just use the cloud service and a screen to play on.

Mobile: Phones and Tablets

"Free to play often actually means pay to win"

They are designed for in game purchase that you need to make in order to win the games faster.

Store: Apple Arcade - no ads, no microtransactions, and be used on Apple TVs like a Nintendo Switch - Nintendo Switch is meant for playing new and classic Nintendo games.

TV: Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox

Both companies are releasing new systems; PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Choosing which to play is based on preference of controller type and exclusive games.

Some Examples of Games:

Sports: Out of the Park Baseball, Football Manager.

Building: Stardew Valley, RimWorld, Factorio, Kerbal Space Program, Frostpunk.

Exploration: Red Dead Redemption 2, The Witcher 3

Strategy: Sid Meier's Civilization Series, Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV, Victoria II, Hearts of Iron IV, Stellaris.

Social: Online games with friends or to make new friends - World of Warcraft + Eve Online.




Liberty Mutual Commercial: Arcade Game

The other day while I was taking a break from working, I saw this on TV and it caught my attention because it was ironic how they made this just in time for my research. Liberty Mutual must also understand how popular retro gaming is becoming. It ends with two (male) kids who think the game is boring. I feel like this somewhat verifies my thesis in a way because the majority of gamers are said to be male and gamers under 18 may have a lack of interest in older games due to modern gaming systems that they are growing up with. But in all seriousness, that game really did look lame because it's about insurance. Although I would probably want to play it just because it's funny.

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