Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Summer Of Free, Retro Gaming!

Philippians 4:11(ESV)- Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Hebrews 3:5(ESV)- Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 

The Summer Of Free is all about taking advantage of cool, free, geek entertainment options in order to be more responsible with the finances God has placed us in charge of.

As a geek, I often have to fight off the desire to buy up everything related to my current nerdly obsession. (Thundertone expansions come to mind...) I feel incomplete or somehow "behind" as I wait to purchase Mass Effect 3, which has been out for months now and is the culmination of a video game series I LOVE! But despite my hunger, I just don't have the money right now to satisfy those specific cravings. That's where The Summer Of Free comes in.

Usually, we're showcasing freebies you can find online, but today I'm going to try something a little different and focus on the stuff you already have. Specifically, this time, your video games.

"But I've played all of my games already! I need something new and shiny to hold my interest!" The truth is, with a slightly adjusted approach or perspective, your old video games can become new and exciting all over again!
Did you hang on to some of those favorite video games of long ago because you might want to play them again someday? That day is today! Proclaim this week "Retro Gaming Week", or this month, "Retro Gaming Month"! Make it official by having some friends or family over for a special night of potluck food and retro games! (Your dad or brother might think he's the master of Circus Atari and Burgertime, but he's about to be educated!)

Did you develop your callouses on an NES or Atari? ("Condor 64"? Is that an old Nintendo game, Grandpa?) Did you slay your first dragon on an SNES or Playstation? Maybe you're in high school or college and your idea of a classic is the first Lego Star Wars on PS2! (You young whipper-snapper!) Whatever you cut your teeth on that's just collecting dust in your closet somewhere can be pulled out and enjoyed all over again. And here are some tips on how:

1. Commercials And Reviews

Nearly every commercial ever made is sitting on youtube somewhere. Throw on your game's name followed by "commercial" and see what comes up.

Advertisements are designed to make us excited about a product so we'll spend money to get it. And revisiting ads for those old games of yours may help remind you of what you love most about them. (Or just make you laugh that people ever dressed that way on purpose.)

The same is true for reviews. Just type in your game's title followed by "review"! There are likely other gamers out there that love your game as much as you do, and they'll be happy to remind you why while showcasing great game footage!

2. Achievements

Ever look at some of the strange achievements available to complete in modern video games? "Eat 20 sausages. Kill 40 zombies with only a skateboard." Even if you're not interested in the bragging rights, tackling an old game with a new goal can breathe some fresh air into the experience.

For those classic games without built-in achievements, visit a site like (featured in the fantastic documentary, "The King Of Kong") and see if you can pull off even 1/10th of the highest achievement listed for your game. (Some games have no achievements submitted yet. You could become the reigning champ!)

And of course you can always come up with your own achievements for fun. Or maybe, for the first time, pay attention to those numbers in the upper right corner that keep increasing as you play. (In the olden days they used to call that your "score". At the end of a level, a higher number is better.) See if you can beat your own high score three times in a sitting, a day, or in one week of gaming. Plan a little reward for yourself if you succeed!

3. Cheats/Mods

Okay, you've mastered your game and no challenges remain because you are just that amazing. Or maybe you want to play your game again for the memories, but don't want to relive the frustration. Then why not have a little fun with cheats? You've already played your game to death and you've got nothing left to prove. Let go of that gamer pride that says you will NEVER USE CHEAT CODES and just have some fun.

Cheats can radically alter a gaming experience. Most often, they make the game easier. But almost as often you can find cheats that make the game harder, or just plain weird! If you've got a cheat device for a classic system, you're as good as gold. Just do a quick internet search referring to your game title and cheat device. You'll find that there are wonderful nerds all over out there that have still been developing cheat codes for these devices, long after they've gone out of production. I've played a version of the first Super Mario Bros. with my game genie where you can "fly" (swim) on every level and every enemy either shoots fire like Bowzer or throws a waterfall of hammers! Good thing everything I touch turns me into Fire Mario!

Even without a cheat device, it's pretty easy to find cheats for both old and new games. A site like is especially helpful for this.

And if you're a PC gamer who has never explored the world of modding, you're missing out. Do a quick search using your game's title and "mods" and you can often find some great user creations, many of which greatly improve upon the original game! Some will be harder to implement than others, but I'm TERRIBLE with computers and I've gotten a number of them to work with just a little time and effort. (TOTALLY worth it!)

Now I'm not wearing rose-colored lenses. At the end of the day, your old-games, even with a makeover, may not feel as shiny as that new 360 title you've got your eye on. And the intention behind The Summer Of Free doesn't have that expectation. But you may still find that breathing new life into your favorite games of yesterday will scratch your nerd itch just long enough to save up some money and buy that new game more responsibly. You may even discover that you don't feel as strong a "need" for that shiny new game as you did before.

Not long ago I was feeling an itch to go get a copy of Mass Effect 3. Though it didn't last long. I'm a lucky gamer who happens to have games that are either incredibly long (Elders Scrolls, Fallout) or with immense, built-in replay value (Dragon Age, Mass Effect). So revisiting those games has already bumped back my perceived "need" to buy a game until sometime in the fall, at the earliest. But as I began to also re-explore some of my older games using the approach I've just described, I experienced an overload of geekery! I even set aside one of my newer games (which I LOVE and haven't finished yet) and am now puzzling over which of my older games I want to play the most! Final Fantasy Tactics? Baldur's Gate? Something tells me I won't be buying a new game until 2013!

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