With that said, it’s often too easy to find some mindsets trapped into interpreting 8-bit based on technical specifications. True 8-bit is usually defined by the central microprocessor a console uses, but in my case what we are talking about here are personal definitions of 8-bit. Or to put it another way those feelings that seem to hit you when you see an 8-bit image from your favorite system, and the way you perceive 8-bit from those feelings. To be honest defining 8-bit in this way almost seems a far more honest way of interpreting it than through technical specifications.
Defining 8-bit this way is something that I found to be personally daunting since my personal definition alone would fail to paint the full picture of the 8-bit experience as I would wish to pass on to others. I order to really paint this full picture, I decided to find those who know a lot more than me about this topic, and who like me choose to openly share their love for retro video gaming either in the form of blogs, through podcasts, YouTube shows, or a mixture of these forms of media.
If you follow my blog then you will know that in the past I’ve written blog posts reviewing and introducing you to some of my favorite podcasts. Since that time many of those podcasts have inspired others to make their own podcasts, expanding my favorites list enormously. Over the past few weeks it has been my pleasure to be in contact with the hosts of many of these podcasts, and to have them help me paint a more full picture of 8-bit through their own memories, and/or interpretations. What you are going to be reading next are what the hosts of these programs shared with me when answering the question: What is your definition of 8-bit?
The Retro Rewind Podcast
My first response is from Francisco Ruiz and Paul J Powers at the Retro Rewind Podcast, which is an amazing podcast that covers video games and movies. These guys are really fun to listen to, and to goof around with on their Facebook page, and I’m glad to have been able to make friends with them since first listening to their show on F-Zero for the SNES.
“8-bit is waking up at 6AM as a six year old so that you can be the first to play Super Mario Bros. It represents a time when games were mostly too hard but some how were still funner then a lot of games nowadays – though maybe its just the nostalgia talking”
“For me, 8-bit gaming are those games played on 8-bit systems or emulators, such as the NES and Sega Master System. All others would not be considered 8-bit. For example: Atari 2600 or 5200, SNES, or Sega Genesis”.
Thank You, Francisco and Paul!
Be sure to catch the Retro Rewind Podcast on iTunes, or on Stitcher! These guys will make you laugh well indulging in a little nostalgia. You can also find them on Facebook at Retro Rewind Podcast, or at http://retrorewindpodcast.com/. Be sure to check out my review for them at http://www.noisefromthebasement.com/the-podcast-of-retro-gaming-retro/ to learn a little more about them and their phenomenal podcast, which has actually gotten even better since I last wrote this article.
The Retro League
My next response is from Hugues Johnson at The Retro League. If there is one spot in all of podcasting or even the internet that you could call retro gaming’s hub it is The Retro League, and the podcasts website and forums. Hugues co-host this podcast with Rob Anderson who is also a regular on The Cartoon Retrocast, and together each and every week they bring us retro gaming news, discuss a gaming topic, provide reviews of old games, let us know about free games or sales, and discuss about a number of other topical subjects.
“Interesting question… when I hear “8-bit gaming” I immediately think of console systems from the Atari 2600 to NES. Adventure and Super Mario Bros are the first two games I picture. Oddly 8-bit computers don’t immediately come to mind although they certainly qualify.
Some might argue that the Intellivision is “technically” 16-bit but I’ll always consider it an 8-bit system, on the flip side some might argue the TurboGrafx-16 is “technically” 8-bit but I never think of it that way.”
Thank You, Hugues!
You can catch The Retro League on iTunes and Stitcher, and you can even watch it on YouTube. As a podcast it will keep you highly informed as to the goings on in the retro gaming world, and also give you a a few good laughs. You can also find them at The Retro League on Facebook, but more importantly at their website http://theretroleague.com/ and at their forums http://forums.theretroleague.com/ which is a phenomenal place to meet fellow gamers and discuss gaming topics. you can check out my review for them at http://www.noisefromthebasement.com/the-podcasts-of-retro-gaming-retro/, FYI much like the Retro Rewind Podcast, The Retro League has gotten even better since I last wrote this article.
The Atari 7800 Game by Game Podcast
The Atari 7800 Game by Game Podcast is still a fairly new podcast just having kicked off in January of this year, so sadly I have not had the time to write an article about it yet. But, if I had I would tell you that its host Phil, is also host of a YouTube video game review and commentary program called The No Swear Gamer, and Phil also goes under the moniker of “The No Swear Gamer” in the retro gaming community. The podcast is a descendant of Fergs, Atari 2600 Game by Game Podcast and covers as you may have guessed Atari 7800 games at the rate of one or two per program. Phils add his own unique twist and sense of humor to these reviews which is needed when dealing with the many odd titles the Atari 7800 had. Phil is also lucky enough to have a full Atari 7800 collection.
“Growing up, I first recall hearing about bits around the time the Sega Genesis arrived in the US. The Sega Genesis was 16 bit so 8 bit was for the earlier consoles like the NES and Master System. For a long time, I figured that since bits had just doubled, then the Atari 2600 must have been 4 bit since it was part of the previous generation. Later I learned that most early systems were also 8-bit, albeit with less power overall. So now, I consider 8-bit gaming, anything on a home system before the Sega Genesis with the NES/SMS/7800 being the high point of 8 bit gaming. Yes, there are new 8-bit style games released today and yes, technically this may not be entirely accurate since the Intellivision can be considered a 16 bit system, but that’s my definition and I like it!”
Thank You, Phil!
You can catch The Atari 7800 Game by Game Podcast on iTunes, and Stitcher, and the No Swear Gamer on YouTube. Be sure to check out both if you can, since they are pretty insightful, and his game reviews are well done and usually dead on, plus both are really fun. Podcasts like this particular one and a few other system-centric ones I will mention are a great resource for those interested in learning about a particular system, and also collecting for it. Be sure to check out Phil’s blog at http://atari7800gamebygamepodcast.blogspot.com/.
Master System Masterpieces: The Mega Podcast Plus
Master System Masterpieces: The Mega Podcast Plus is another fairly new podcast that premiered in late May, and took inspiration from the NES based podcast 2 Dudes and a NES. As the title would indicate the podcast focuses on the sometimes forgotten (at least in North America) Sega Master System an 8-bit contemporary of the NES, and Atari 7800, and Sega’s first internationally released console. The hosts George and Eric really engage you in this podcast while providing insight about a particular game, its development, and its game play elements, coupled with an honest review of the game. Overall the show is fun to listen to and an excellent resource for those collecting for the SMS, like me.
“What is my definition of 8-bit gaming, huh? That’s an interesting question. For me, I think right away about the NES and Master System. For North America, the Nintendo Entertainment System is the machine that defined video games and helped bring back the video games market. I would say it’s the “face” of video games. For the Master System, it was popular in countries from Europe, in Australia, New Zealand, and even Brazil. What is my definition of 8-bit gaming? Well, what about Atari’s 8-bit computers? The NES? The Master System? The Atari 7800? People loved them, they were fun. Honestly, any 8-bit machine that gave someone enjoyment, pleasure, satisfaction, nostalgia, etc. That’s what defines 8-bit gaming to me, having fun and holding on to memories of an old machine. I personally grew up a tiny bit with an NES, and I still have memories of it to this day. I was a Playstation kid though. Now with the SEGA Master System, I was curious as to why people enjoyed it, why they loved it. I went ahead and took a look at it, I got a console, I started playing. People enjoyed the thing so much, and from many different parts of the world. That’s what defines it for me. A simple matter of the world enjoying playing these games, whether together or alone.”
Thank You, George!
Much like the other podcast here you can catch Master System Masterpieces: The Mega Podcast Plus on iTunes and Stitcher. This is another podcast I have a lot of fun listening to, and having just bought an SMS towards the begining of this year it was awesome to find a podcast out there to help walk me through this system to get to know its games with those who know and have played the system for a while. I actually wrote about my first experiences with my Master System in January with a follow up article in April, you can find them here: http://www.noisefromthebasement.com/mastering-unknown-getting-to-know-sega-2/ and http://www.noisefromthebasement.com/mastering-unknown-getting-to-know-sega/. I found the Master System Masterpieces: The Mega Podcast Plus shortly after publishing these and all I can say is that it was nice to see this system get some love, and also see that it had a pretty good following dispite the fact that it was the era of the NES, or at least it was here North America. Be sure to check Master System Masterpieces: The Mega Podcast Plus out.
A Special Thank You!
I want to thank Francisco, Paul, Hugues, Rob, Phil, George, and Eric for their truely awesome podcasts which have bought me hours of entertainment, and expanded my appreciation for gaming in its entirety. I would also like to thank some some of the other podcasters who are working on their answers as I write this. The question I asked can be a big one for you if you feel strongly about what 8-bit means to you and I’m hoping I can do a part 3 to get those answers in.
So what is 8-bit?
Francisco, Paul, Hugues, Phil, George, and myself all lived in, and have memories of an era when 8-bit was all there was. To be honest “bits” in games never mattered back then, and much like Phil stated “Growing up, I first recall hearing about bits around the time the Sega Genesis arrived in the US.”, this is an important statement because up until that time all we really know was that our NES’s, 7800’s, and SMS’s, could do a lot more than our Atari 2600’s and Colecovisions ever could.
Of course nowadays you don’t hear about “bits” anymore on modern systems, and we really haven’t since the N64 and the muddled mess that was the 32/64-bit era. But, by that same token we also live in an era of snarky video game journalist who believe the world of gaming started at the PS2, and look at anything considered “8-bit” to have the quaintness of the Lascaux cave paintings. They often mistake, and far too often consider the games of this era, to be overly simple in design and gameplay. Sure, there weren’t hours of cinematic plot line in every cut scene in games of that time, and of course games where mostly two dimensional, but theses games where anything but simple. To quote Fransico above “It represents a time when games were mostly too hard but some how were still funner then a lot of games nowadays”, this is the thought process of many gamers who have traversed gaming since the 8-bit era. Gaming back then may have seemed simple in appearance, but by know means where the best and most memorable, easy. Games such as the Castlevania series, Metal Gear, Alex Kidd, Midnight Mutants and Metroid for instance all have gained infamy over the years for being notoriously hard to beat, and those are just some of the better known titles.
The five answers to my question, “What is your definition of 8-bit?” may have been varied but they all seem to have the same soul. 8-bit is seen as a time when the act of gaming itself was simpler, but the games themselves where not. It was an era where you knew your system by name, and not by its technical specifications. It was also a time when we plugged a game into a system and left it there, returning to it after school, and early on weekend mornings till we beat it. We didn’t teach ourselves how to play games with lengthy in-game tutorials, and Internet walkthroughs, but rather through a trial and error process resulting in the many senseless and even stupid deaths of our on-screen personas. Lastly, there was just something special about the way 8-bit looked and felt, with its vibrant colors, and its imaginative representations of objects, and characters that stirred us with excitement and a sense of adventure and unlimited possibilities. It was a look that would slowly but surely disappear from gaming as 3D, and realism took over the realm of gaming in future generations.
So the only thing left for me to ask is, what is your definition of 8-bit?