9 game references that show your age

Videogames are frequently described as a young medium, but they’ve been through a nigh-unfathomable number of changes in the 49 or so years since SpaceWar! first lit up MIT’s campus. In that time, a lot of the terms and points of reference we use to describe games have come, gone or mutated into something wholly unlike what they originally meant. The lexicon has gotten so complicated, in fact, that it’s frequently possible to roughly guess a gamer’s age just by the references they use.

Above: Here’s a freebie: “The last game I played was Pac-Man!” 

Don’t believe us? Then think about the last time you talked about a…

1. Shooter

“Shooter” seems like it should be a catch-all term, doesn’t it? Something that should encapsulate all games that revolve around shooting something – which, let’s face it, would be an awful lot of games. But “shooter,” used by itself, tends to have a very specific meaning that differs from generation to generation. Back in the ‘80s, for example, if you were talking about a shooter, you were probably talking about a game like Gradius, R-Type, Xevious or Time Pilot. Something side-scrolling or top-down, usually with a spaceship that shot at things.


These have since been renamed “shoot ‘em-ups,” or “SHMUPs,” but when they were actually popular, the term was practically unheard of. And it’s not uncommon for seriously old-school fans to still refer to SHMUPs simply as shooters, because that’s what they are, goddammit.

It wasn’t until the likes of Wolfenstein and Doom came along that first-person shooters co-opted the term and eventually became synonymous with it, giving an entire generation of Japanese-RPG fans license to complain about how everything’s “a shooter” these days.

Above: We can probably blame Halo specifically for every game being a shooter, seeing as it’s the most popular and therefore the worst

2. 64

It’s pretty common to assume that the word “64” tacked onto a game’s title means it’s a Nintendo 64 game. It was a popular convention back in the day, after all, and became so prevalent that certain N64 games that never had a number in their title have since become popularly known as, say, “Superman 64” or “Castlevania 64.”

Above: You see a “64” anywhere on this box? Or even a title, for that matter? 

Above: There, see? If a publisher tacked a 64 onto a title, they wanted you to know it

If you’re one of the many who think along these lines, then odds are you’re relatively young. However, it’s possible – if unlikely – that seeing the number in a game’s title triggers a totally different association. It wasn’t quite as widespread as it was among N64 games, but slapping a “64” on a game box was fairly common during the Commodore 64 era, too.

Above: Back then, most games were only 50-60 percent machine code. Munch Man 64 changed all that 

So if you’ve ever caught yourself wondering why all these snarky internet kids keep bringing up ancient ‘80s computer games, congratulations: you’re old. And more than a little out of touch.

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  • cptnoremac - September 19, 2014 2:53 p.m.

    Shooter: Mega Man 1 - 4 Adventure: A Link to the Past Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Never heard of the original in its time Final Fantasy: II (I mean IV, I guess). It was my first one. Castlevania: 1-3 on NES Ninja Gaiden: Dying many, many times on NES. Still want to try the Xbox one, though Who still hears "800 number" and thinks of Nintendo video game help hotlines that you never call?
  • dmag - July 21, 2010 9:59 p.m.

    Glad to see an article tackle this. I have a touch screen register at my retail job that is next to a retirement home. I have so many customers commenting on how when my register beeps it sounds like a video game. FAIL! Great Job Mister Reparaz!!!:)
  • JADENkOTOR - July 20, 2010 3:48 p.m.

    I guess Im old ('81) though I really don't fell like it... anyway this is all the stuff I grew up on and I really don't associate myself with one or the other...
  • SwampRock - July 20, 2010 9:45 a.m.

    Oh god, I'm only 18 but I really feel old now looking through the comments, I'm pretty sure I played a few Final Fantasy's before i played number 7 as a kid, but I just love number 7. havent finished it yet but I'm currently working on it, finally got to disc 2 ^^
  • gmknoble - July 20, 2010 2:39 a.m.

    I dig the article Mr. Reparaz. It made me realize how young I am compared to you.
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - July 19, 2010 10:45 p.m.

    FPS games are to be referred to as "point, spray, and pray" games in my head. Contra will always be a proper shooter to me. :')
  • IceBlueKirby - July 19, 2010 9:53 p.m.

    I'm old enough to have been playing stuff like Contra Force and Metal Slug when they were fairly recent, but because the internet wasn't a source of all information back then I didn't know what to call them, as such I call them shoot 'em ups because that's the first term I heard. As for FFVI/VII, I played VII first and didn't like it at all, but I love VI. I didn't even own a SNES until 2001 so my first RPG was like, a demo of Legend of Legaia since the Genesis didn't have many RPGs and something like "Phantasy Star" wouldn't have caught my attention at that age. Also, my first Castlevania was Castlevania 64 (there I go putting 64 on something that didn't originally have it) and I remember liking it, but I think I'll take my memory's word for it and avoid playing it again. I rather enjoy both eras of Castlevania, with Dracula X and SOTN being two of my favorites.
  • pin316 - July 19, 2010 12:26 p.m.

    As far as I can tell - i'm smack bang in the middle of where these examples are pointed at: Shooters: I call Ikaruga a shooter Adventure: Monkey Island all teh way Prince of Persia: The original (got the HD update recently - kick-ass!) Ninja Gaiden: Ridiculously difficult xbox game about Ryu Hayabusa Final Fantasy: First one I played was VII and i loved it - i went back and played the earlier ones but VII came first for me and stil is my favorite Gotta love being an 80s kid! :D
  • elpurplemonkey - July 19, 2010 4:57 a.m.

    That was a very fun read. Really brought me back (to the SNES and N64 days at least.) And yea, my first memories of Castlevania are of the 64 variety. It was fun at the time.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - July 19, 2010 1:40 a.m.

    Final Fantasy 4 is better than any other FF. I was introduced to it via DS, and it wasn't the first FF I got, so your points are INVALID. And from the few minutes I played of FF7, I hated it. It was ugly as sh_t, the dialogue was a bit weird, and O was X.
  • Manguy17 - July 18, 2010 10:29 p.m.

    with the whole " which is the real game series" stuffs i spose i just think of the one i enjoyed the most or if ive played one recently, i spose and example would be that normally to me mario means mario 64 ( cos its on n64 dur dur durr what you said is true) but at the moment i think mario galaxy 2.
  • lymanzaar - July 18, 2010 8:47 p.m.

    Looks like Simon is into the Rupee collecting business.
  • jakery22 - July 18, 2010 7:04 p.m.

    What's the second picture game called on the two stick shooters again? I remember the many hours i spent playing that game. And yet i can't remember the name. :(.
  • VenomVip7 - July 18, 2010 5:41 p.m.

    @ sixboxes what if you think of him as both? I was born in '93 but you say shooter I'm thinking Doom or Duke Nukem. You say sidescroller its the old mario classics. you say action adventure game its the good ol' Earthworm Jim for me. and yeah there's the newer games like Halo, Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Assassin's Creed. but I also remember playing the old Sega Genesis version of Spawn, Star Fox, and yeah the Donkey Kong where's he is the hero. But I remember the older one where he's the villain. There's no reason a gamer from the newer generation cant like the older generation games. I still do.
  • Xplosive59 - July 18, 2010 5:19 p.m.

    im only 16 yet when i think of castlevania i think of Simon Belmont and the trademark lvl one music and Final Fantasy 6 is my favourite in the series by far.
  • shyfonzie - July 18, 2010 4:39 p.m.

    Oh god, I'm a child.
  • Bloodyrose - July 18, 2010 2:56 p.m.

    I found that Final Fantasy 1-5 were more fun to play then the new one and I don't know people say shoot'em up still.
  • EDfromRED - July 18, 2010 9:51 a.m.

    Fantastic, interesting article. Makes you think what present day gaming conceits and/or paraphernalia will seem quaint and anachronistic in the future. P.S. Those crudely drawn hooded figures on the cover of that Munch Man 64 game, makes it look like it was developed by the KKK
  • revrock - July 18, 2010 5:58 a.m.

    How about Night Driver's 3D? That game didn't even have a sprite for a car, it was a plastic overlay on the screen .Yup, I am old. One more would be anyone who actually played the NES Kid Icarus and is hyped about the 3DS. By the way, some kids from my church brought in a Namco plug and play the other day. Until they saw me play Galaga, they didn't know you could get a double ship... But they did start cheering me on as I blasted through level after level.
  • kurgan2001 - July 18, 2010 5:09 a.m.

    Wow. I was born in '79 and loved the NES and SNES games. Guess I'm old too .. "sigh"