As someone who has no real time for Videogames these days (well, outside of the Souls series) but who still clings onto an undying fondness for the carefree gaming days of youth, one of my guilty pleasures is bingeing on retro gaming related YouTube channels. The still-potent charm of pixel art and chiptune soundtracks have an almost zen-like effect on me as i careen into the tail end of a hazy weekend or particularly shitty day at work.
Scholars with more weight than I possess could probably wax lyrical on the effects of milking the nostalgia gland and the strange pleasure we get from reading about or observing games as opposed to y’know actually playing them, but the appeal is undeniable, and though still a niche market, it’s growing exponentially as time-poor Gen X increasingly gets their Shinobi on vicariously.
In an adult world beset with responsibility, disillusionment, and basic bio-survival anxiety it is little wonder we lock away a golden hued corner of the brain to fetishise afternoons spent kneeling on the carpet eating red frogs and powering through Alex Kidd in Miracle World, or rainy weekends with our noses pressed up against a breathy condensation-wet monitor banging our heads against the antiquated text parser of Space Quest.
The unabated proliferation of Retro Gaming channels on YouTube is a testament to this, but it can be a hefty slog sifting through the dross, noise and frat boy mongolism to stumble upon something of merit.
For me, Kim Justice has just the right selection of buttons on her control panel. With most channels being of North American origin the abundance of coverage tends to go to consoles and the original NES in particular. The thing is, as a kid growing up in Australia, NO-ONE (except that rich cunt no-one actually liked) had one of those things. So a more euro-centric channel that focuses on the home micro-computers and Sega Master Systems that were as ubiquitous here as they were in Kim’s native UK manages to trigger that odd serotonin drip that only true nostalgia evokes. For someone who remembers tape-loading, magazine cover floppies and one button joysticks this is a bit of a gold mine.
Meticulously researched, these recollections and retrospectives combine personal anecdotes with lashings of historical context, adopting a documentary format that highlights Kim’s genuine fondness for and curiosity in the subject at hand. Occasionally cringey (the ‘sing the names of Patreon backers’ sections being particularly excruciating), the channel has nonetheless evolved over the years to encompass decent production values, a depth of coverage that is rare (recent videos clocking in at an average 30-45 minutes apiece) and a consistent content schedule that makes checking back on the page continually rewarding.
From a dissection of the great 8 bit micro battle that preceded the similarly passionate schoolyard stoushes of the Megadrive/SNES era:
to a surprisingly poignant tribute to David Bowie:
There is an abundance to wade through, particularly if you have a burning desire to revisit the history of UK software houses of the 80’s or the ocean of mediocrity that is licensed games. Kim has been at it long enough now to inspire other channels of note as well as garner a column in the gloss and print of Retro Gamer and seems to still be gathering steam, so if you ever blew on a cartridge copy of a shitty Afterburner port or saved up your pocket money for a copy of ZZAP 64 Magazine then this might just be an afternoon happily wasted.