chapter  9
28 Pages

Retro Reflexivity: La-Mulana, an 8-Bit Period Piece

WithBrett Camper

Since its inception, the commercial video game industry has been fundamentally oriented towards the steady “progression” of technology platforms. Along the way, representational aesthetics have largely followed these technical advances. We have moved from one-screen action game classics like Atari’s Missile Command (1980) and Centipede (1982), to side-scrolling platformers borne from the genre-defining Super Mario Bros. series (Nintendo, 1985-ongoing), to 3-D first-person shooter franchises like Half-Life (Valve, 1998-ongoing) and Halo (Bungie, 2001ongoing). At the same time, childhood gamers have grown up, and a powerful nostalgia for older styles of games has germinated: players in their twenties recall the ground-breaking 2-D titles of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), while thirty-somethings remember the thrill of Atari’s VCS (also known as the 2600), when broadcasting’s monopoly of one-way television ended and millions of households first “brought the arcade home.”