A very retro Christmas

I'm certainly not a "hardcore" gamer by any stretch of the imagination.  However, like many kids who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I have fond memories of playing Nintendo.  So I still have a soft spot for retro games, which I occasionally play via emulation.  Turns out there's a large community of retro games on YouTube, so I sometimes watch their videos.  I particularly like channels like The Gaming Historian, that trace the history and context of games, franchises, or pieces of hardware.

I've also recently taken to watching the odd retro gaming video on YouTube.  In particular, I'm kind of fascinated by speed-running.  Several months ago I stumbled upon this video of a Dragon Warrior speed run in less than half an hour.  I loved Dragon Warrior as a kid, and I remember spending hours and hours grinding so that I'd be at a high enough level to move on to the next area.  But this run used random number generator (RNG) manipulation to control the "random" actions of the game and basically beat it over lunch.  I find the amount of work and investigation that goes into this type of thing truly impressive.  (Though I can no longer remember what it's like to have the free time that you'd need to do this.)

Anyway, while I'm watching these videos on my tablet or phone, my son will sometimes sidle up and watch them over my shoulder.  So he knows about and is interested in various old-school games.  He even sometimes watches me plays them or takes a turn playing them on my phone.  He's also been getting more interested in games, coding, and computers in general lately.

So this year, we got him a DIY project for Christmas - a retro gaming console.  Or, more specifically, the components to build a retro gaming console.  This consisted of a Raspberry Pi 400 CanaKit and a couple of IR wireless controllers.  I walked him through assembling the hardware, showing him what the components were and what they're for, and took care of flashing the microSD card with a RetroPie image and getting some games onto it.

Overall, this was actually a remarkably easy process.  The CanaKit comes with all the hardware you need, except for controllers, and it's pretty easy to up together.  I don't think I even needed any tools.  The controllers I got were advertised as working with Raspberry Pi and "just worked".  Even installing RetroPie was pretty painless.  The process was fairly well documented and required minimal configuration.

So now we have a nice little retro gaming console.  RetroPie works well and has a fairly easy to use interface (it even has some instructions for controlling it with the gamepad on-screen).  My son hasn't had much problem with it so far.  In fact, we beat Contra together this afternoon.  We used the Konami code to get 30 lives, of course.  I can't imagine playing without it - I'd almost forgotten how brutally difficult early video games could be.

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