August 03, 2023

Retrogaming: the community keeping classic games alive


Desperately blowing on cartridges to get a game to play one more time?

Slappers Only in GoldenEye 007?

The satisfaction of finding all the warp zones in Super Mario?

Your very first "up up down down left right left right B A?"

The Growth of Retrogaming

The world of retrogaming is very much alive and thriving on YouTube. In fact, there were over 1000 times more uploads of videos related to retrogaming in the first half of this year than there were for the same period in 2007.

Source: YouTube data, Global, lifetime

A Non-Encyclopedic Content Breakdown

And these videos showcase the passion, deep cut knowledge and nostalgia we all love watching. Here’s our attempt at a high level breakdown of the creator archetypes behind retrogaming content:

Collectors show off personal collections and share their exploits in buying and selling collectible hardware and software.

Historians demonstrate a depth of knowledge related to the history of gaming through videos ranging from long-form, historical documentaries to trivia related to games, consoles, and the business of gaming.

Players showcase gameplay, let’s plays, speeedruns, other nostalgic throwbacks that bring back all the memories.

Retailers are proprietors or employees who provide a behind-the-scenes look at retrogaming retail outlets. They frequently show off rare hardware and software and often show themselves shipping games out to the vast retrogaming community.

Preservationists display the care that goes into refurbishing vintage hardware devices, modding, retrofitting, preserving and maintaining worn devices and so much more.

Commentators are those creators who are knowledgeable about games, and this content is typically either reviews of games and consoles or commentary on the gaming industry.

All of the above form an active YouTube community based on the collecting and preservation of older video games. It’s interesting to note how these categories and content align with psychologist Dr. Ruth Formanek’s motivations for collecting. In her research, she identified several motivations including extension of self, relation to others, financial investment, and preservation/Continuity of history.

Extension of self = collectors giving tours of their personal collections

Relation to others = Retailers and Collectors sharing their transactions; Players playing with or against others

Financial investment = Collectors flipping games; Commentators providing info on the value of games

Preservation/continuity of history = Collectors; Preservationists; Historians using their channels to keep history of video games alive and relevant

Hardware vs. Software

Classic hardware is essential to retrogaming, which is why a majority of the 100 most-viewed retrogaming videos from the past year featured content about home video game consoles.

Source: YouTube data, Global, Aug 2022 - July 2023

From YouTube's earliest days through present, one piece of hardware has dominated uploads of videos related to retrogaming -- The Nintendo Entertainment System.

Of the channels associated with retrogaming and the Nintendo Entertainment System, the most-viewed in 2023 so far is Cinemassacre, the home of Angry Video Game Nerd. Angry Video Game Nerd's video on Nightmare on Elm Street from November 2006 is the oldest existing retrogaming-related video to have more than 1 million views.

Uploads By Decade

Although the bulk of interest correlates with consoles from the 80s and 90s, the presence of more modern consoles being associated with retrogaming shows that the retrogaming is evolving as the consoles that younger gamers grew up with are slowly being added to the retrogaming canon and considered “retro” (we’re looking at you, Wii U).

Source: YouTube data, Global, lifetime

A Global Phenomenon

And Retrogaming is a global phenomenon, with top views this year coming from countries in South America, Europe, and Asia!

Source: YouTube data, 1 Jan - 6 Sep 2023

All of this adds up to a pretty incredible story: The entire history of video gaming is accessible through retrogaming content on YouTube, thanks to the incredible Creators and their communities who help keep it all alive.