The retro gaming market is a thriving market within the overall umbrella of the video game market.  Major game publishers are rushing to online avenues like Xbox Arcade and Wii Virtual Console to make their games of yesterday tomorrow's hottest selling downloads.  Young gamers never exposed organically to 8-bit or 16-bit systems are discovering Mega Man and Goldeneye via download onto their consoles.  I always had very sweet memories Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo.  As a child, it was really the first game that I remember thinking "wow" when I saw the 16-bit graphics.  After the opening of Wii Virtual Console, Donkey Kong Country was my first purchase.  While it looks close to awful on a 50 inch screen, the brought back lots of memories and played just as I remembered it playing.

Perhaps the most interesting development in the retro gaming market is the creation of new "old games."  Developers (mostly independent designers and companies) are creating new games with retro graphics, gameplay and appeal.  Games like VVVV and Minecraft look like something out of the 80s or early 90s, and it's their simplicity that make them so attractive.  With graphical engines and cell shading out of the way, it's the level design, gameplay and controls that have to shine.  Big publishing companies even hold competitions where programmers compete for the best retro game, awarding them a job and cash.  If none of this news is new to you, then you're probably already aware of my latest video game addiction... Minecraft.

 

In an attempt to explain Minecraft simply and quickly, I'm going to tell you a short story.  Imagine you are a person in a peaceful, sunny world full of endless hills and oceans.  Everywhere you look there are trees and flowers, sheep and cows.  You turn one bend and before you is a beautiful waterfall and to your left, a deep cave perfect for exploring!  You decide you would like to look at this waterfall and explore this cave every morning when you wake, so you begin crafting a small house.  You cut down a few trees nearby and build your walls, a door and maybe even some windows.  You even consider building a front porch when you notice that the sun is going down.  You walk into your cozy cabin for the night, closing the door behind you.  A sudden snarl over your left shoulder beckons your attention at the far window.  What is that?  Something is moving.  You light a torch near the opening and gasp!  Is that skeleton?  Ouch!  What was that?  The skeleton is shooting arrows at you!  You try to dodge the arrows, but there is nowhere to hide in your tiny house, so you head for the door and fling it open.  Suddenly you find yourself face to face with a groaning, green zombie.  Then it's lights out.  You wake up the next morning on the beach where you started the game.  By the time you get back to your house, you find it blown to bits, a large crater imprinted in the land where it once stood.  That's right, you fell victim to an exploding zombie.

That's Minecraft in a nutshell.  A giant playroom (rumored to be several times the size of the Earth) filled with endless blocks, places to explore, and monsters to duel.  Oh, and your friends can join in on the same map.  The game is currently in Alpha, but more or less fully playable.  Grab a copy and get addicted at www.minecraft.net.