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Page last updated at 06:26 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 07:26 UK
Retro gamers turn back the clock
By Jim Reed
Newsbeat technology reporter

Jon Stoodley
Jon Stoodley wants his world record score for Pac-Man back
Jon Stoodley has an unfulfilled ambition. For three years between 1982 and 1985 he held the world record top score at the classic arcade game Pac-Man. Now he wants it back.

"I used to play with a friend at an arcade in Liverpool," he told Newsbeat.

"One day, an American gamer came in and scored 600,000 points. No-one could believe it.

"So I watched him play, picked up some techniques and from then on, I couldn't put it down."

In 1986, another American, Chris Ayra, did the impossible, beating Jon's score with the first ever 100% perfect Pac-Man game.

"It means playing for more than four hours without making a mistake," said Jon.

"It's eating every ghost without losing a single life."

Since then only four other people, all from the US or Canada, have played Pac-Man through to the very end without dropping a point.

Now, 20 years after giving up the game, Jon's got an arcade cabinet installed in his house.

"My goal is to beat my score the old fashioned way," he said.

Retro Fusion

Jon is one of more than 200 people of all ages at the UK's biggest old school gaming event.

The organisers of Retro Fusion, held in the Warwickshire town of Leamington Spa, say they could have sold out the charity event twice over this year.

Retro computer
80s computers are among the exhibits at Retro Fusion
Gamers can try their hand at Rock Band on the Xbox 360 and the latest high powered PC shooters but the real draws are the lovingly restored arcade cabinets, the rare Japanese Sega Master Systems and the 8-player games of Bomberman on the Super Nintendo.

Darren Jones, the editor of Retro Gamer magazine, said: "There is obviously a nostalgia effect.

"These are games we played when we were young and we have fond memories of them.

"But there's also a simple accessibility to Pac-Man or Space Invaders that some modern games don't offer.

"I love Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto but there's something about Robotron that still makes it the greatest game ever made."

One of the younger gamers at the event, Matt Lees, agrees.

He said: "At the moment the industry is obsessed with graphics in terms of making everything look photorealistic.

"Sometimes it feels like they've got a bit stuck. The older games here force you to use your imagination like a good book so you start to discover a really strong narrative for yourself."

Nintendo dominates

There's no doubt it's been a big year for the game industry.

Multimillion dollar titles like GTA IV smashed sales records, World of Warcraft hit 10 million users and Sony just announced a first person shooter with 256 online players.

Archer MacLean
Archer MacLean developed some of the most famous retro games
But for all the big numbers, in some ways part of the industry feels like it is returning to its retro roots.

Two of the biggest games of the last year, Rock Band and Guitar Hero III, rely on simple gameplay rather then flashy graphics.

Nintendo has taken the lead over its rivals with easy-to-pick-up titles aimed at the mainstream audience that perhaps Sony and Microsoft left behind in their race for photorealistic domination.

Archer MacLean, one of a handful of gaming celebrities signing joysticks in Leamington Spa, was responsible for 80s classics like Dropzone on the Atari 400 before going on to develop beat-em-up IK+, Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker and, most recently, Mercury on the PSP.

He told Newsbeat: "The game industry worldwide turns over more money than Hollywood.

"But some games out there now have teams of 200 people working on them and budgets of $40 million.

"When you get to that scale, backers only like to invest in known franchises and that does tend to stifle creativity."

The success of the Wii is, according to Archer, evidence that originality rather than graphics can still sell games.

He is now working on a new racing title for the machine.

Both Microsoft and Sony are both expected to follow Nintendo's lead and push into social, casual gaming that appeals to a family audience.

Darren Jones at Retro Gamer reckons that's no surprise.

"Although video games are the most successful medium in the world at the moment, there is still this idea that a certain type of person plays in their bedroom with the curtains closed," he said.

"Nintendo are back saying that gaming should be for everybody. As long as the industry as a whole embraces that, then it will be successful for some time to come."



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