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

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.


OECD forecast sees global growth at decade low

Updated 22 November 2019

OECD forecast sees global growth at decade low

  • Governments failing to get to grips with challenges, outlook says

PARIS: The global economy is growing at the slowest pace since the financial crisis as governments leave it to central banks to revive investment, the OECD said on Thursday in an update of its forecasts.

The world economy is projected to grow by a decade-low 2.9 percent this year and next, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in its Economic Outlook, trimming its 2020 forecast from an estimate of 3 percent in September.

Offering meagre consolation, the Paris-based policy forum forecast growth would edge up to 3 percent in 2021, but only if a myriad of risks ranging from trade wars to an unexpectedly sharp Chinese slowdown is contained.

A bigger concern, however, is that governments are failing to get to grips with global challenges such as climate change, the digitalization of their economies and the crumbling of the multilateral order that emerged after the fall of Communism.

“It would be a policy mistake to consider these shifts as temporary factors that can be addressed with monetary or fiscal policy: they are structural,” OECD chief economist Laurence Boone wrote in the report.

Without clear policy direction on these issues, “uncertainty will continue to loom high, damaging growth prospects,” she added.

Among the major economies, US growth was forecast at 2.3 percent this year, trimmed from 2.4 percent in September as the fiscal impulse from a 2017 tax cut waned and amid weakness among US trading partners.

With the world’s biggest economy seen growing 2 percent in 2020 and 2021, the OECD said further interest rate cuts would be warranted only if growth turned weaker.

China, which is not an OECD member but is tracked by it, was forecast to grow marginally faster in 2019 than had been expected in September, with growth of 6.2 percent rather than 6.1 percent.

However, the OECD said that China would keep losing momentum, with growth of 5.7 percent expected in 2020 and 5.5 percent in 2021 in the face of trade tensions and a gradual rebalancing of activity away from exports to the domestic economy.

In the euro area, growth was seen at 1.2 percent in 2019 and 1.1 percent in 2020, up both years by 0.1 percentage point on the September forecast. It is seen at 1.2 percent in 2021.

The OECD warned that the relaunch of bond buying at the European Central Bank would have a limited impact if euro area countries did not boost investment.

The outlook for Britain improved marginally from September as the prospect of a no-deal exit from the EU recedes.

British growth was upgraded to 1.2 percent this year from 1 percent previously and was seen at 1 percent in 2020.