The Vintage Threshold

The question of defining at what age a bit of gaming kit becomes retro is a difficult one. There are no books or publications on the subject, believe me – I’ve searched.  There are no experts employed to debate these matters either, believe me – I’ve checked.  So that leaves each and every one of us to come up with our own arbitrary figure that determines at what age a console or handheld passes from the blinding light of the modern to the dusky glow of the vintage.

You can crunch the numbers, do the math, spend months locked in a small temple nestled within Mount Kailash meditating, but in the end you just have to pick a date.

For me, that date was anything made in the year 2000 or before.  Obviously that date rolls forward with each year, so perhaps it’s easier to say anything released 11 or more years ago.   For a while it worked out fine, because it allowed me to include a machine I’d previously been unsure whether or not to bring into the collection; the Playstation 2.  The re-release of the PS2 as a ‘slim’ model and its continued popularity even today made it seem as though it couldn’t possibly be considered vintage yet, but the realisation that the Sony console was released over a decade ago combined with the fact the original ‘fat’ PS2 looks damn fine on a shelf lead me to adjust my ‘vintage threshold’ in a little. 

Unfortunately, the fact I already have a Gamecube throws a real spanner into the works of the 2000 theory.  Released in 2001, I explicitly consider the Gamecube as a retro console, well past its prime and suitable only for enjoyment as a ghost of the past and an excellent way to bash out a few rounds of Soul Calibur.  So I was left with a conundrum, I considered the Playstation 2 – released in 2000 – as not really retro, but the Gamecube – released in 2001 – as completely vintage.

Shit.

My mind couldn’t reconcile it. I felt the usually concrete fabric of physical reality bending and warping around me as the two modes of thought tried to resolve themselves.  I had two choices; adjust my vintage threshold date or allow the entire universe to collapse in on itself in a chaotic dissolution of the building blocks of life.

And no one needs that kind of head trip on a Sunday evening.

So to allow myself and the surrounding universe to live on happily, my final vintage threshold is 2001.  It’s a good date, fits with the collection thus far and means I can sneak in an original Xbox when the time is right (ugly, clunky things though they are…)

So what’s your vintage threshold?

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2 Responses to The Vintage Threshold

  1. Takoma says:

    Many years ago I was reading a Sega magazine, the name of which escapes me now, and in the letters page (Letters pages. Remember those?) there was an angry rant from a sprite-era gamer that read, and I paraphrase:

    “You see I suffer from polygonophobia, and was horrified when I heard about Virtua Striker and how Sega were polygonning football.”

    Polygonophobia. Can you imagine that poor man’s distress? Can you fathom his plunge into sheer madness as his gaming world changed around him, ushering with it an age fraught with the nightmares of Worldcraft, Maya, and UnrealED? That poor, desperate soul, clinging desperately to 16-bit sprites and screenshot–by-screenshot maps of the submarine mazes in Earthworm Jim. What hell he dwells in now, one can scarcely begin to imagine.

    I digress. For me, retro begins when trash becomes treasure, when neglect gives way to scarcity, and the median price of an item crawls its way up toward the light of ‘collectible’ from the dank pit of simply ‘last generation’. The Gamecube, Xbox and PS2 live now in the garages and storage areas reserved for trash just this side of disposable, where they can be had in their boxes for pennies. Slowly but surely, however, supply will start to creak under the fledgling mammoth of demand, and well preserved examples will start to fetch ever increasing prices, slowly at first, and then streaking ever upward as the gamers of their generation start yearning for the comforts and simple days of their youth.

    So it goes.

  2. Sean says:

    Interesting question. You might also consider that there are different levels of vintage. For me, 1989 is kind of a good cut off point for the end of my “childhood vintage” Commodore Vic-20/ Apple IIC – era (I turned 13 that year) and the beginning of my “teenage vintage” years, which go to about 1995. Then came “university vintage” in the late 1990s which I associate with the N64.

    For pure collecting purposes though I just draw the line between cart based systems and disc based ones and only collect the former.

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