CNet review of Atari Flashback 8 Gold: a rant

To be a hardcore Atari 2600 fan means constantly defending the console against the same old stupid complaints over graphics and sound and Pac-Man and E.T. and so on and so forth, even among fellow classic gamers. However, most classic gamers will at least concede the importance of the system to the history of video games and that it was a platform for some eminently playable games that hold up to this day. No one is under the delusion that the Atari 2600 compares directly with today’s gaming technology. For goodness’ sake, the system was cutting-edge for barely a few months after it was released; the Bally Astrocade quickly bested it for graphics and once the Intellivision came out in 1980 it was clear the VCS was never going to be a graphical wunderkind.

The problem comes when people who weren’t even around at the time the 2600 was being produced throw shade at its legacy. This review really pissed me off. First of all, the title — Playing old Atari games in HD isn’t as great as you think — led me to believe it was a technical review of the plug and play’s HD capacity. This is valuable information for me because my Colecovision Flashback looked absolutely atrocious on our HD television; my wife even bought me a cheap CRT in order to play the thing on.

The review didn’t even touch on that. Instead, we get two chortling millennials basically saying “This is old and the graphics suck” for four minutes. Now, I understand it’s the nature of youth to crap on the old, but I’ve always felt it to be kind of a generational bitch move. I never even really understood it when I was a young person; I’ve generally always been willing to give a wide range of music, movies and literature a chance regardless of age.

For the record, I am not one of those middle-aged millennial haters. There is much I admire about the younger generation. I am not one of those old farts who gets online calling them “cucks” and “social justice warriors.” Millennials often bring up uncomfortable social realities that older people do not want to discuss or, often, even solve. I don’t always care for their tastes in music, fashion or (sometimes) video games, but generally they’re alright by me. But start dissing my favourite stuff without any real critical thinking (that’s a key distinction — everything is fair game for criticism) and I’ll knock you down in a hurry.

As for the Atari Flashback 8 Gold itself, it looks pretty good. There are some cool new features such as rewinding your game. Like all the Flashbacks, I think it’s a cool toy, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable using one in any high score competition because a number of these extra features (pausing, rewinding, etc.) can offer an advantage over competitors playing with actual hardware. (Mind you, I believe the Stella emulator — which I use — offers pausing but I never use that feature in competition.) Anyway, that’s just my personal choice.

Hope you didn’t mind the rant. Stay tuned for a new set of reviews in a few days.

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