I mean, there'll always be a place for nostalgia. People will always want to remember the things that have meant something to them. Today's young gamers will be tomorrow's retro gamers.
But... has the retro gaming mediasphere - for want of a better word - reached critical mass, and outward expansion has now ceased?
There are podcasts, websites, shows... and it feels like every other day a new retro gaming YouTube channel starts up. It feels like that big ball in Katamari Damacy, and every day it just gets bigger and bigger as more YouTubers are stuck to it, and if you're new it's impossible to stand out.
Indeed, finding content for this site and the YouTube channel - which hasn't already been covered in some form or other - is incredibly difficult.
Yes, I know... it doesn't so much matter if it has been covered before, so long as I can find my own take on a topic, but I want to surprise and educate not only you lot - but myself as well. I'm sort of seeing it almost as a game, a challenge to myself, to find stuff that's obscure, and hasn't been covered.
It's tricky though - the likes of my Digitiser co-host Larry Bundy Jr have been doing their thing for years, and between the titans of retro gaming, and the billions of smaller channels - some doing utterly amazing work, others not so much - I do have days where I get a little despondent, wonder whether Digitiser has anything meaningful to contribute, and ask if it's worth it.
This isn't a self-pitying whine... but given the amount of time I put into all things Digitiser, it's a question that I think is worth asking myself; why do I do it? Why carry on doing it?
First and foremost - and most importantly - the creative expression is my number one reason. I love writing Digi and I love making videos. I love the satisfaction of creating stuff which I know is good, and I take enormous pride in doing so. Digitiser The Show, especially, is unlike anything else - in tone, in format - and yet most of the episodes have levelled out around the 13,000 views mark.
That's good, obviously, but not great given the amount of time and money that was put into it... So it's hard not to feel disheartened when somebody uploads a video with the title "Is The N64 Actually a Shoe?", that they've seemingly thrown together in 15 minutes, and it gets 35,000 views in 24 hours.
I'm well aware that I shouldn't ever compare my content to what else is out there, before you all tell me in the comments - my dear wife has been saying the same for weeks anyway - but it is what it is. When I've spent days or weeks working on something, and the end result gets a fraction of the views as some shameless clickbait, ad-libbed in front of a wonky green screen,... I admit that I do question myself. How can you not?
Not so much whether what I do is good, but whether I'm good enough at The Game. I don't understand the rules of self-promotion, I don't know if I possess the gene that allows me to pester and pester, and not feel like I'm being annoying. I struggle to do clickbait. So many of you have been amazing at sharing what I do, but growth has been so slow that I worry there's a glass ceiling, due to the amount of retro gaming content out there already, and Mr Biffo's face is squished right against it.
And before you say it... I know. It takes time to build an audience. Unfortunately, the frustrating thing for me is that Digitiser had an audience... but I went away for many years, through reasons that were outside of my control, and during that time YouTube rose up, many of the big names in retro gaming became established, and I got old.
So perhaps my question isn't so much "Is retro gaming over?"... Perhaps it's more... "Is retro gaming over-saturated?".
Are there simply too many of the same sorts of channels covering the same subject, too much of a feeling that anybody can do it, and Digitiser is now just another me-too brand lost in the noise? It doesn't help that retro gaming brings with it an older audience - and that I'm knocking on a bit in years - so I don't have the benefit of a younger audience, who are more willing to share stuff. We're all in our 30s and 40s, and there are more important things going on for us than our dedication to some YouTube channel and website.
Again: glass ceiling.
When I first brought Digitiser back there was a real excitement around it. I swiftly realised Digitiser couldn't be what it once was. I could never compete with the big, established websites, and chose to make this more of a blog.
I know some people were, at first, waiting for me to fail. Others were just happy to have me back. Gradually, the audience realised I wasn't actually insane, and the nostalgia for Digitiser itself carried the site forward for a couple of years. That has dropped off.
However, I loved the community - not only around Digitiser itself, but the wider retro gaming community. It felt like a nice place, everyone sharing the same interests, and it was all lovely and friendly. Unfortunately, in the last year or two there has been a real split. Divisions have arisen within that community, and it's no longer the loved-up place it once was.
It saddens me when I see people I like having a pop at one another online, and makes me angry when I see others trolling to the point that they risk driving talented creators out of doing something they enjoy.
At the end of the day, retro gaming is just meant to be about fun. None of the content creators I know are in it for the money - they all started out because it was fun, and carry on because they're passionate. None of the ones I've met have a cynical bone in their body.
Still, I'd be lying if I said all of this hasn't made me question Digitiser - original, old-school, teletext Digitiser. Given that my style has proven divisive - the stupid characters and language and humour seemed to annoy people, particularly in Digitiser The Show - I'm led to wonder whether the huge audience we had simply tolerated all that, because we were pre-Internet, and the only daily source of games info.
And on another level I don't care if that is the case, because it amused me to put all that stuff in.
Also, being Mr Biffo seems to bring with it an enormous amount of drama, without me even trying. There were things behind-the-scenes on Digitiser The Show - some of which only got resolved this week - which would've removed a huge amount of stress and anxiety from my life had I not chosen to do this. In addition, I've usually got a backlog of a dozen or so people sat in my inbox, who want my help with something, or want to collaborate, or want me to review something, or just want to chat...
And for 13,000 views, and zero pay (the Patreon money is mostly spent back on the site and videos) is it worth it?
Why do it?!
I'm lucky in as much as Digitiser isn't my main job. I do see it as a job, but I also see it as a hobby, because I love doing it. That's why I do it. Between Digitiser and Found Footage, I've had some amazing life experiences, met some incredible people, and been fulfilled creatively.
It gives me respite from what I do for a living, it's a place where I have creative freedom, and I probably wouldn't want to rely on it for the entirety of my income. I think that would place too much pressure on it, and mean I'd end up tailoring my content for views. And I've never really been one for watering down my own voice.
Nevertheless... while the Digitiser channel is doing okay, and growing steadily, this website has - in the past year - seen a steep decline in views. I've been trying hard to keep both the YouTube channel and the website running alongside one another, but I do wonder whether that's simply contributing to the morass - and splitting not only my time, when I could dedicate more effort to one or the other, but also the audience...
I've already told my Patrons that I'm considering focusing more on the videos than the written content, and I know some people will be miserable about that. However, that's what I'm enjoying most right now, and while the written stuff will never go away entirely, it seems most sensible to invest my time and money into the area that I most enjoy, the one that's on an upward trajectory, rather than the one that's in decline.
So, to answer my original question... is retro gaming over? Well, no. But if you're thinking of becoming a retro gaming content creator I think it's worth being realistic about it, and figuring out your reasons why.
Oh, and while I have you... go and subscribe to the YouTube channel and watch my Berzerk video. It's bloody great, and only 3,500 people have seen it so far.