Today I stumbled across someone tweeting an advert from some second-hand site, titled “Retro! Playstation 2”. The unhappy tweeter was declaring the PS2 is not retro, just a bit old.

The question of what counts as “retro” is often debated amongst gamers. Some would keep it firmly to the 8 and 16 bit eras, and are a bit aghast at the idea of the PS2 or Gamecube appearing in Retro Gamer magazine. Others are happy to define the term more widely.

Definitely retro.

Here on this humble site, we’re on the more easygoing side. After all, we’re now sometimes looking at games from around 2006-2007. We don’t necessarily put the label “retro” on ones of that vintage. Still, we look at those mid-2000s games alongside the games of the 90s, and not modern releases. So we’re not going to argue if someone wants to describe a game from 2000, the year the PS2 was released, as retro. It’s also the year of Deus Ex and Shogun Total War. Compare both to their modern sequels, and consider how much has changed in gaming in general since then. The year clearly belongs to a different era, and that may be a good definition of retro for some.

For others, not so much. If your interests are focussed on the earlier days of gaming, that’s fine. Some sort of formal and objective retro status, however, is not awarded based on the judgement of 40 year old men who used to own a spectrum. A game does not need to be a bleeping array of chunky pixels for you to call it retro. There’s never going to be some totally agreed definition. Sure if someone used the label for a five year old game, we’d probably disagree. However that boundary in time, where a game attains retro status, is hazy and subjective. It floats somewhere in the 90s or 2000s, its location a function not just of graphics standards but subjective experience.

Call this retro too, if you like.

Also, consider a gamer of 25 – older than we were when we started this site. They won’t even remember the 8 bit days. Maybe they had a 16 bit device, but it’s possible their first console would have been a PS1. Their whole frame of reference will be a bit different to ours. The “retro” category shouldn’t exclude anything they actually have first hand experience of.

This might sound obvious, but: time continues to pass and a period of interest does not remain in a fixed position relative to day. The history of gaming is 17 years longer than it was when we started this site. With every year the 8 and 16 bit eras recede further into the past. So we might want to keep our definitions open to updates.

Basically some guy’s nostalgia for Super Mario Sunshine is the same sort of feeling as some other guy’s recollections of Jet Set Willy. The world of retro gaming should have room for both of them.