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San Jose Rockage Festival Brings Old-School Gaming and Chip Music to Silicon Valley

In Culture, Music

Nostalgia Notions

Interestingly, that same simplicity is the reason many feel that the nostalgia for classic games continues to grow. Some gamers simply don’t want to spend 45 minutes just making a character and getting down the controls on a complicated new game that takes dozen of hours to get through.

As a co-organizer of California Extreme, Ken Chaney has come to understand that himself.  “The game play has got this elegance that’s simple but compelling,” says Chaney of the best classic arcade games.

“Anybody can just step up and play it. It takes you two seconds to understand the game, and you can keep playing it and playing it and playing it.”

Each new development in the complexity of technology seems to inspire a new wave of nostalgia. Vinyl purists claimed CDs couldn’t capture the warm, realistic sound of records, and their even deeper hate for MP3s has pushed specialty vinyl releases back into regular rotation for indie and punk bands.

Smartphone apps like Hipstamatic attempt to re-create the fuzzy, quirky photographic lenses of cheap plastic cameras. Even slot-car racing has made a comeback, with big-money replicas of famous raceways like the 60s-era Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway and San Marino Grand Prix going for around $10,000.

The arrival of The Artist, with its fond look back at Hollywood’s heyday, has evoked a retrospective reverie for 35 mm film as opposed to digital movies. In the last year or so, digital screens overtook traditional film screens as the primary projection method at theaters. In reaction, theaters like the New Beverly in L.A. are trumpeting their 35mm prints as a selling point. The Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto has long prided itself on showing exquisite 35 mm archival prints of classic movies.

For Chaney, one experience with consoles convinced him once and for all that newer was not necessarily better.

“When Doom 2 came out, I loaded it up, and a week later I came out of my room. Once I figured out what had happened, I said never again. It was too much. I don’t want to go that far down the rabbit hole,” he says.

Though he agrees that the core constituency of his business is nostalgia, he and the other organizers of California Extreme want to take it beyond that. Enlisting new, younger players helps to keep the hobby alive, which is one of the reasons he’s glad to see Rockage combining underground music with video game culture. He’ll be bringing a lot of games and some pinball machines there.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids discover games that are much older than they are,” he says. “You can have nostalgia for something you’ve never experienced before. There’s something in you that connects to it on a personal level. There’s some kind of generational leakage that seems to happen.”

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