'Old school' gaming off the shelf at Westport Library
Published 5:07 pm, Thursday, January 31, 2013
"Vintage" video games, like "Super Mario Brothers," come off the cyber shelf and are back in play at the Westport Public Library.
At a drop-in session Saturday, gamers reminisced about retro games, the classic video systems and simple, yet maddeningly compelling graphics.
The program, led by Teen Services Librarian Jaina Lewis, focused on the circa-1985 Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Mario Brothers video hijinks. The program attracted a handful of people ages 10 to 50, who tried their hand at the game controls and maneuvered the iconic characters on a projected screen.
Lewis worked with Westport-based Retro Games Plus to buy the Nintendo system and related games for the Saturday offering, with similar events in the future.
"I wanted to provide a good example of actual gaming history," she said. "Mario is so symbolic of Nintendo in general and universal enough to be recognizable to a wide group of people -- both parents and kids."
Lewis had already organized a contemporary Minecraft video game program. "Minecraft is very different, requiring strategy and building skills," she said. "You need to do a lot of planning, figuring out how to survive and make things. It's amazing how it has caught on with middle schoolers, who had been into shooting games. Minecraft isn't violent at all and the graphics aren't that much more evolved than Mario. It's a surprising trend."
The 32-year-old librarian and video games have grown up together. "I got a Nintendo set when I was 7," Lewis said. "I was a huge gamer until 15, when my video game skills stopped. It's great that there's a retro game store in town, as I'm still good at the old games and like the simple graphics."
Lewis said gaming of the past required different skill sets. "You had to learn how to take turns, couldn't save anything, and learned to live with the frustration of hours of playing, then dying," she said. "Today, you can save games, play online, and play with multiple people at once. In the older days, turns were taken as levels were achieved or lives expired -- hence today's program name."
In Lewis' opinion, gaming is popular with all ages, from word games on phones with friends to the "Call of Duty" action games. "You may not think of certain access as gaming, but even a Scrabble game online is gaming," she said. "With the kids that come to the library, there's socialization, too. Kids are in the same room, talking to each other, cheering each other on. It's fun to watch."
Danielle Lussier, 21, on break from college, stopped in for Saturday's program. "I used to play Nintendo `Mario Kart,' and then when they came out with the Wii, I did that," she said. "I think I like the old school more. The games were so simple, with easy controllers, and very straightforward. It's cool that the library is offering an opportunity to play retro games."
Grace Kearns, 10, from Storrs, was another drop-in enjoying the retro games. "I have `Super Mario 3D Land' for Nintendo 3DS," she said. "I like all the levels. I'm into special levels now, which is really high up. It's very similar to the old system game. It's cool to compare the versions."