In praise of the big pixel: Gaming is having a retro moment

A boy plays the ‘Pacman’ retro game at the Gamescom gaming fair, the largest in Europe. (AFP)
Updated 25 August 2019
0

In praise of the big pixel: Gaming is having a retro moment

  • For some old school gamers, it’s a welcome blast from the past

COLOGNE: Clunky games consoles with blobby pixels might not be the latest thing — but they’re still cool even if you’re no longer at school.
Video games producers plying their wares at Gamescom this week in Cologne may primarily be out to push the frontiers of high-tech and virtual reality as they eye a bigger slice of a booming market.
But their commercial antennae are sufficently honed to realize numerous hands on the joystick belong to gamers for whom retro hasn’t so much come back as never gone away.
That much was evident from the interest shown toward those who brought along vintage hardware which the uninitiated might have thought had long been left to gather dust in the attic.
So-called “retrogaming” — digging out favorite classic games of yesteryear to be played on equally aging hardware — is right on trend at Gamescom, Europe’s gaming fair.
That much is clear from seeing a sea of enraptured faces as visitors drool over machines from right back in the early days — including the kind of machines once a staple in cafes and arcades.
For some old school gamers, it’s a welcome blast from the past.
For others the past is their present, be it indulging original vintage passions on old machines, ‘emulating’ a game simulated on a new machine or ‘porting’ to enjoy old content on new hardware.
“It reminds me of my childhood and today I realize that the games in those days could also be complex,” said Jackye Mueller, a 21-year-old student trying to snaffle virtual bananas while playing old favorite Donkey Kong on a Super Nintendo.
Nearby, a father is waxing lyrical on the attractions of another classic game, “Pong,” to his young son.
The arcade game, launched in 1972, involves each player manipulating a virtual cursor-like tennis ‘racquet’ to ping the ball back across a screen of simple 2D graphics.
“Retro is everywhere — in films, music, cars, clothes. So why not games?” asks Christian Gleinser, creator of a cohort of new games which work on computers ‘boasting’ 1980s graphics.
“People like to have fun among friends and appreciate the ease of use, the short charging times and even the old pixels,” he said.
What is striking is how the rising retro trend has lifted the average gamer age as veterans who got the bug in the 1980s and 1990s pass on their memories and old-time savvy to youngsters, often their own, even as the latter more often than not are coming to the genre via shiny and new hardware.


Where’s the beef? Argentine cattle ranchers hope it’s heading to China

Updated 18 September 2019

Where’s the beef? Argentine cattle ranchers hope it’s heading to China

  • Surging sales to Beijing shake up global meat trade and deliver tasty windfall for Latin American giant

BUENOS AIRES: Cattle ranchers in Argentina, which recently edged out neighbor Brazil as the top exporter of beef to China, are hoping to build on that status by getting more local meatpacking plants approved by Beijing, industry officials and other sources told Reuters.

An Argentine industry group is currently in China looking to promote the South American country’s famed T-bone steaks and sirloins, while Chinese teams have recently inspected Argentine local meat plants, the sources said.

The push, after a massive spike in Argentine beef exports to the world’s No. 2 economy this year, underscores how China is looking to diversify its protein supply, shaking up the global meat trade as African swine fever hammers its domestic hog herd.

It is also an important windfall for Latin America’s third-biggest economy, which is battling to get out of a deep recession and facing a swirling debt crisis ahead of elections in October that will likely usher in a new government.

Argentina, which traditionally exports cheaper cuts to China, saw its beef sales to the country more than double to $870 million in the first seven months of the year, data from its official INDEC statistics agency shows.

Chinese customs data show that amounted to around 185,604 tons of Argentine beef, giving it the top share of the Chinese import market with 21.7 percent, slightly ahead of Brazil’s 21.03 percent. That volume was a jump of 129 percent against the year before.

Santiago del Solar, chief of staff to Argentina’s agriculture minister, told Reuters there were many slaughterhouses up for approval and that China was working closely with Argentine food safety body Senasa.

“We will have news in the coming months about more pork, poultry and beef slaughterhouses being approved for China,” he said, adding Senasa was doing some inspections on behalf of China using an “honor system.”

Argentina’s ranchers are now looking for more. A trade delegation is currently in China meeting with potential buyers of the country’s meat, an industry official with knowledge of the meetings said.

The person added that a Chinese team had also recently traveled to Argentina to visit local meat plants.

“The Chinese were there last week in Buenos Aires, they were doing inspections and made good progress. The plants issue is pretty good, but with China they make approvals when they want to do it,” he said.

“We are optimistic with the results. It seems they didn’t find anomalies, but yes, it depends on the time frame of the Chinese.”

The progress comes after China granted export licenses to 25 Brazilian meatpacking plants earlier this month. Brazil has also seen a surge in meat demand from China.

China’s General Administration of Customs, which approves new imports, also recently gave the green light to imports of soymeal from Argentina, following decades of talks between the two countries.

The customs body did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment from Reuters asking about new Chinese approvals for Argentine meat plants.

A second person, a manager at a state-owned Chinese trading house, said he had met with an Argentine firm last week during the delegation’s visit. He declined to name the firm, which had met with China customs officials, but said it had already been approved for exports and was seeking further plant approvals.

Miguel Schiariti, president of the CICCRA meat industry chamber, said a Chinese team had also recently done a video-conference inspection of an Argentine plant alongside Senasa, with the aim of approving the facility for export.

“There are 11 meat plants ready to be approved and (the Chinese) are doing it one by one. But approval is taking a long time,” he said.

“These places would meet the criteria for approval, but the Chinese have always been very cautious, despite the problems they have with pork. It seems to me that plants won’t get approved before November.”