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All You Need Is Chat – Retro Games Reborn Through Interaction

Plenty of people love to play retro video games, either on old platforms and consoles as intended or through emulators and remastered downloads. There’s just something satisfying about revisiting a game you played as a child, or diving into some clunky graphics and bare-bones gameplay. But one issue is that for a lot of people, this experience quickly grows stale. Even a completely engaging retro game that brings a smile to your face can often be over too quickly, or else be too repetitive to keep you entertained too long.

But in their infinite wisdom, modern game developers have come up with at least one pretty foolproof strategy of livening up retro games and gaming formats that might otherwise be a little bit dry. In this case, I’m talking about the idea of infusing any appropriate game with a chat feature to allow players not just to play against each other, but to interact while doing it.

One of the early examples was Words With Friends, which took the app gaming world by storm in 2009. While Scrabble isn’t quite what comes to mind when you think of “retro games,” it has been around both in board and video game form for quite a while, and to a lot of younger people it seems a little bit archaic. Words With Friends was pure imitation, however, and while it could have gone the way of any number of other word-game or even Scrabble apps, it instead thrived through social elements. As a fairly comprehensive review by Gamezebo put it, the social experience was “well-emphasized” through both in-game chat and Facebook integration, whether you were playing with friends or strangers. Basically, chat features served to make Words With Friends competitive and social even though the games weren’t played in real time. You could always leave messages for your opponents (not to mention have several games
going at once).

On a relatively similar but probably even less likely note, we’ve also seen bingo revived at least in part thanks to an increasingly social focus. Bingo, like Scrabble, isn’t a traditional retro video game, but it’s been around in one form for another pretty much as long as anyone can remember. But the game may actually be in something of a heyday now given that it’s been smoothly integrated with real money online gaming platforms. The chance to play easily for real rewards is a draw in and of itself, but the chance to play socially is also an attraction, and rest assured bingo rooms online are pretty active communities. Gala’s site even goes so far as to explain different chat lingo for players who might find themselves in active conversations and missing abbreviations like “BLNT” (better luck next time) and the like.

But chat features aren’t just proving handy for updating retro board and table games for new audiences. One genre in which chat has proven to be surprisingly effective is in one-on-one fighting games. These games are still being made on a regular basis, and in fact just last year we did a write-up for the latest Mortal Kombat release. But even if franchises like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and Co. are still active, we’ve also seen mobile game developers working on new takes on the genre. For instance, Marvel: Contest Of Champions is basically Street Fighter with Marvel characters, and Gods Of Rome is the same with ancient heroes and deities of mythology. The former has had a chat feature from day one but eventually added more complex “alliance” gameplay, and the latter just built in a similar alliance feature. These games are turning the classic, old school fighter format into a team game with chat a
nd co-op missions.

This just covers a few examples. But it’s becoming clear that simply injecting social features into old gaming formats can help to revive some retro titles and genres that people still enjoy today.