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Remember Mario?: Gaming is having a retro moment

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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 hi-tech and virtual reality as they eye a bigger slice of a booming market.

But their commercial antennae are sufficently honed to realise numerous hands on the joystick belong to gamers for whom retro hasn’t so much come back as never gone away.

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AFP / Ina FASSBENDER Remember Mario?

That much was evident from the interest shown towards 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 favourite classic games of yesteryear to be played on equally ageing 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 where you could play sitting down or standing as you wished.

For some old school gamers, it’s a welcome blast from the past.

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AFP / Ina FASSBENDER So this was cutting edge when Dad was young

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 realise that the games in those days could also be complex, “laughs Jackye Mueller, a 21-year-old female student trying to snaffle virtual bananas while playing old favourite Donkey Kong on a Super Nintendo.

Nearby, a father is waxing lyrical on the attractions of another classic game, “Pong,” to his young son.

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The early 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 to win the ‘point’.

– Prehistoric pixel paradise –

“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.

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AFP / Ina FASSBENDER ‘Space Invaders’ ruled in the early days of gaming, and for retrogamers, it still does

“People like to have fun among friends and appreciate the ease of use, the short charging times and even the old pixels,” says Gleinser against the fair’s musical backdrop of the likes of Sonic, Mario Kart or Pokemon.

Beyond actual collectors some dyed-in-the-wool gamers have kept faithful to the old games even if some emulator programmes which allow adaptation across platforms are not always technically quite legal.

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.

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“We see there is a return to VHS tapes or vinyl and retrogaming is adding itself to that trend — there’s no reason why video games wouldn’t,” notes Fanny Renard, a comunity manager at independent studio Goblinz.

– Durable trend? –

Given the trend many console makers are retooling their old machines and dusting off catalogues boasting dozens of the top hit games of times past.

An example is Japanese group Sega, which had found itself unable to stand its ground in the face of new-fangled competition from the likes of Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox.

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For retro fans Sega is now proposing its Mega Drive Mini, replete with 42 games.

AFP / Ina FASSBENDER There’s still a sizeable market for old school games

Nintendo has meanwhile revamped its NES and SuperNES consoles while the first edition of PlayStation is also back on the market.

“The fact that each maker is retooling its consoles with sizeable catalogues shows there really is a market out there,” says Laurent Michaud, director of studies for Idate.

“The cost of the retooling is pretty low and has already long been paid off — it’s just a bit of supplementary layout for these groups,” says Michaud.

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How long the business can surf the retro wave is not clear, however.

“Augmented reality is the market of the future” for video games. “Retrogaming is a bit different,” Michaud suggests.

“This has the potential to become a real market, albeit not a very big one and not for very long,” predicts Andrew Kitson, analyst with Fitch Solutions.


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‘Conspiracy, extortion and bribery’: Ex-prosecutor ticks off crimes Trump and Rudy may have committed with Ukraine gambit

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On MSNBC Saturday, former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah laid out all the ways that President Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani could be breaking federal law with their apparent scheme to push Ukraine into digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.

"Extortion, conspiracy to engage in extortion, and violating federal election law," said host Alex Witt. "Do you agree with all those premises?"

"I do, Alex, and I would add one to that, which is federal bribery," said Rocah. "Here, Trump essentially was trying to get the Ukrainian president to bribe him, give him information about his political opponent in exchange for aid to the country. So, that is soliciting a bribe. And you know, look, we can get into this more. Obviously, this is my area of expertise, whether something violates federal criminal laws, but I do worry that we're going down a path that we went down with the Mueller investigation, because for the president of the United States, that is not the standard."

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Giuliani’s public invitation to Ukraine to interfere in US elections opened the door for other countries to run to Trump

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President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani turned heads with his bizarre, unhinged rant on national television that effectively urged Ukraine to continue trying to gather dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden — and for news outlets to take whatever they find seriously.

As Casey Michel wrote in The Daily Beast, even if this effort ultimately fails to turn up useful opposition research against Biden, this is a profoundly dangerous development for American democracy.

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Trump whistleblower needs to go directly to FBI because Bill Barr can’t be trusted: Ex-FBI director

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Appearing on MSNBC with host Alex Witt, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi blew up Donald Trump's claim that he is the victim of a "Ukraine Witchhunt."

He then added that the whistleblower who went to the inspector general with a serious charge against the president should take what he has and go to the FBI within a week if nothing happens.

"We've got to get to the bottom of this, and we can't rely on leaks and certain reporters getting certain tidbits of information," the ex-FBI man explained. "This needs to be explored and it's likely this could end up in a criminal investigation."

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