Connected Worlds

George Hemingway
September 10, 2014

I recently jumped on the internet to see what games had been developed for Ludum Dare's latest 48 hour game jam. The theme this time was Connected Worlds, and I was impressed by Christer Kaitila's project which connected two worlds: the Christer at age 16 and the Christer at age 41. As the story goes, the 16 year old Christer played arcade games back in the '80s and '90s. He promised himself that when he was old and rich, he would have an arcade machine in his house. Fast track 25 years, and Christer drove past an abandoned arcade machine by the road with a FREE sign. Christer embraced the serendipity and spent the 48 hours of the game jam restoring his new arcade cabinet. This project allowed Christer to connect the present with his past, and fulfil a promise he made as a teenager.

Ms. Pacman "These two worlds, my past and my present, live together as I play Ms. Pacman on my very own arcade machine" - Christer Kaitila

Upon seeing Christer's project, my mind was flooded with memories from my own teenage years. In the late '80s, I played Rastan Saga at the local fish & chip shop after school. Even though the potato cakes were tempting, I'd save my 20 cent pieces for the game. Anyone who wanted to play would reserve their spot by resting their 20s on the screen. During our wait, we would watch in awe as the more advanced players tried to survive the castle in the first level (yes, it was a hard game). Hearing rumours of a new game was always exciting, and I remember embarking on an expedition (catching a tram) to play Double Dragon for the first time.

In the early 90s, I was blown away when I saw Street Fighter 2. The game was quite technical and the depth of skill that can be achieved was incredible. Competing with other players was common and the competition was fierce. The best players in my suburb would get annihilated by players visiting from the city. Of course people could probably fast track these skills today with the wealth of knowledge available on the internet, however in the 90s, progression was made with trial and error, collaborating with other local players, and absorbing techniques from the city kids.

Super Street Fighter 2 Super Street Fighter 2 is one of my favourite videogames and Ryu vs Guile fights can get quite technical.

I have many fond memories of playing arcade games and I often wonder how we should respond to our nostalgia. Should we acknowledge our sentimental memories with a smile and move on, or is it important to reconnect with our past? There are many people who restore arcade machines, play games on emulators, join retrogaming communities, or collect old games and hardware. I myself have a strong desire to build videogames and I believe nostalgia is one of the driving forces. The videogame I'm working on is influenced by Boulderdash and other digging games from the '80s. It started as an exercise to understand how to implement the mechanics, however I revisited the project last year to inject my own creativity into the genre. I'm not alone when it comes to remaking games from the past, and this is evident from the experimentation and innovation coming out of the independent scene; this includes the many platformers and roguelikes influenced by Mario Brothers and Rogue respectively.

Arcade machine My upcoming videogame running on my bother's arcade machine.

Christer's Connected Worlds project inspired me to start my own little project to reconnect with the past. Last weekend, I added arcade support to Postbug, my upcoming game, and installed the game on my brother's arcade cabinet. To celebrate, my brother and I spent Father's Day with our families and showed Postbug to our children. This was a special moment and I could see the awe in the kid's eyes when they saw the cabinet. This is probably the same reaction I had when I walked into the fish & chip shop many years ago.

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