Recent years have seen a revival of something you may remember from your own childhood – 8-bit culture. Of course, in the 70s and 80s 8-bit was the norm, rather than a statement, as that generation of computers used 8-bit microprocessors. In today’s world of advanced computing, however, returning to the age of 8-bit aesthetics or sound is certainly a “scene”.  8-bit art, chip music and even video games abound and seem as popular as ever. But what is the source of their appeal for both creators and consumers and what can they tell us about our lives today and about ourselves?

For those of you who grew up in the 70s or 80s, the answer may be simple – nostalgia. You may hark to a simpler time when you were still at school and your biggest worry was how to talk your parents into buying you the next hot video game about to come out. If your parents didn’t have the means to buy you games at all, the prevalence of such games right now, when you may as well be able to afford them could be a great reason to get stuck into this scene.  Of course, there is much more to 8-bit culture than simply games, although it’s safe to say games were the inspiration behind most of what we see.

8-bit art

Pixel art, as it is often called, is often inspired by early video game aesthetic. Many artists choose to work in this medium because it’s simple, yet challenging. It’s easy to see the link between today’s art and vintage gaming. Pixel art often depicts characters (original or based on actual game characters) or game-like objects. Artists enjoy being able to pay tribute to their favourite games, while consumers enjoy the style, as well as what it symbolises – a certain cool geekiness and a sense of belonging to a particular sub-culture. This ties into both geek culture and hipster culture, as retro gaming was the beginning of today’s fascination with video games. Having an appreciation of the early years can be seen to signify a certain level of originality or of simply having been there first. Even millennials born well after computer and video games improved tend to be drawn to this aesthetic. If you were born in the 90s, you may well have seen your parents play 8-bit games or seen such art work as a child too.

Chip music

Like the above, chip music was originally created as soundtracks for various video and arcade games. The lo-fi, “computery” sounds dominated the sound of the 80s, but you may be surprised to discover that there is still a very active scene of producing such lo-fi music today. Most of it does sound as if it was written for a video game, but it’s instead consumed by electronic music aficionados. There are even competitions, festivals and parties dedicated to chip music, so if you find yourself unable to forget your childhood, you won’t need to look too hard for an instant ticket back in time.

Video games

The market for retro gaming has never gone away. In fact, some original consoles are still around and available for sale and fetch a very good price as people hunt down ways of playing their favourite childhood games. Of course, these are often expensive, sometimes damaged and not always easy to find. You could join countless others in searching online auction sites, as well as car boot sales, garage sales and markets for long lost cassettes or consoles. If you’re into arcade games, you’ll be happy to know that many arcades today buy and repair original old games to appeal to the nostalgic crowd. Both original games and clones of the original ROMs set in a new computer are available to play in many arcades and even bars.

Those who are after 100% authenticity of the experience enjoy this part as well, as it makes the final result (i.e. actually being able to play an original game) more valuable.  Of course, not everyone is so obsessed with owning a first generation gaming console and first generation games. If it’s just the games you’re after (or the games themselves with somewhat more modern controls), you could save some money and get clones or one of the consoles that offer original ROMs on a modern machine. Some examples and reviews of what’s available in the market right now can be found on Retropool. It may also interest you to know that many of the old ROMs are actually available online to be played either on a website, or on your PC or even mobile. There are plenty of sites that offer original DOS games, as well as a whole range of old arcade games. You may even end up finding quite a few arcade and video games you never even knew existed.

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Recent years have seen a revival of something you may remember from your own childhood – 8-bit culture. Of course, in the 70s and 80s 8-bit was the norm, rather than a statement, as that generation of computers used 8-bit microprocessors. In today’s world of advanced computing, however, returning...