Retro Gaming Program Ideas

Looking to go old-school?  Want to try something different in the world of video gaming as a program?  There are a lot of great retro programs that can be put together to offer something different for your patrons and to reach new audiences by appealing to nostalgia, and recent developments in the world of gaming have made those retro programs more accessible.

There has been a renaissance recently in hardware that emulates the experiences of yesteryear.  2017 saw the release of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition, a small version of the Super Nintendo that kids in the 1990s grew up with, preloaded with 21 games.  This is a followup to last year’s Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition, which was likewise preloaded with 30 NES games, and which Nintendo has promised to re-release in 2018 due to massive demand.  Best of all, the costs for each are quite reasonable, retailing at $59.99 for the NES and $79.99 for the SNES – of course, you have to find one first, as eBay prices for each have shot through the roof due to their scarcity.

Not to be left out, other companies have jumped on the retro console bandwagon.  The Ataribox, due out next year, advertises its ability to play old Atari games as well as its potential to accommodate new titles as well, and at $250-300, it seems to be positioning itself as more than just retro gaming (though how much more remains to be seen).  Those adults who grew up with the Commodore 64 aren’t left out either – a miniaturized $69.99 version with 64 games is coming next year as well.  Arcade fans can also check out the Super Retrocade, which promises to deliver 90+ old arcade titles for $60.

So what kinds of programs can libraries make with these consoles?  It turns out there are a lot of very cool options available, and some libraries have already taken the lead on many of them.  Free play always works – take a look, for instance, at Mentor Public Library’s slate of retro gaming programs, or Baraboo Public Library’s invitation for patrons to bring their own systems  to share.  For other ideas, though, how about:

  • Score chasing – Compete on a classic game to see who can do the best in a limited run – who can get the furthest on one life, for instance, or who can rack up the most points.
  • Let’s Play – These are incredibly popular videos in which people play the games while maintaining a running commentary – for examples, see this Youtube channel or the Let’s Play Archive.
    • The Warren-Trumbull County Public Library hosts their own channel!
  • Retro tournaments – There are plenty of multiplayer games out there that lend themselves well to competitive tournaments. You could also combine a retro tournament with a contemporary title in the same series – for instance, why not host an event in which patrons can play both Street Fighter II and Street Fighter V, or Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart for the SNES to see how things have changed?
    • DC Public Library incorporates games like Oregon Trail and Zork in their competitions.
    • Roanoke Public Libraries host a “multi-generational” Street Fighter tournament.
  • Speedrunning – This is a challenge in which people compete to see who can make it through an entire game the fastest, often taking advantage of programming glitches in the process. An entire charity is set up based around speedrunning, Games Done Quick, which has raised millions of dollars for groups like Doctors Without Borders.
    • The Nashville Public Library’s Richland Park branch boasts a “Mario Speedrun Challenge” as part of their “‘90s Arcade for Adults.”
  • Retro gaming crafts – Crafts are an excellent addition to gaming programs, as they give everybody something to take home with them. As always, Pinterest is your friend

There’s a lot to try, so why not experiment and mix these in with your programming lineup or your IGW offerings?  Give it a try, and let us at GameRT know how it goes!

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