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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Programming Idea: Retro Gaming

Quick and crazy thoughts this lovely Saturday morn.

My library system has this kind of neat website where they can highlight different events on the main page.  I was glancing there the other day and noticed something.  One of the programs there was listed as “Retro Gaming”.

Instantly I could see it.  The library purchases some old Nintendo NES consoles (gigantic game cartridges and all), some Atari, and maybe a ColecoVision if they’re feeling cheeky.  You get a bunch of old classic games and then have the teens play them.  I guarantee they’d be fascinated.  Heck, at this point in time they’d probably figure it was a history lesson . . . and they’d be right.

As it turned out, my library was talking about chess and checkers and those kinds of “retro games”.  But I’m rather enthralled with my version.  My husband pointed out that you could just link to old games on the internet and get them that way, but there’s something so much better about having the original joysticks and whatever the heck that ColecoVision device was called.  Many of you guys work in library systems.  Tell it to me true then . . . has anyone ever heard of a library system doing this before?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. My son (aged 11) is the proud owner of what he calls a NES – a very aged Nintendo gaming system. He loves it every bit as much as his Wii and his 3DS. There seems to me to be something peculiarly nostalgic about this new generation.

  2. I haven’t heard of a library doing this, but I have an old Atari system in my basement that still functions, so every once in a while, I’ll play some old skool Pac-Man or Pitfall. My godsons enjoy it, too, although I am always worried they’re going to break something, the system is so aged.

    Our local children’s museum has a video game exhibit with old game units you can play that is very cool: I go there to play Ms. Pac-Man a couple times a year, and there are always kids and teens playing all the different games, even the really, really old ones.

  3. If you do this at NYPL, I’m there! :)

  4. Genius, Betsy! I haven’t heard of a library doing this, but a coffeehouse in Logan Square (a neighborhood in Chicago) has a couple of these old systems and a big 1970s style TV to play them on. Very popular.

    I think part of the allure of these games is that you can just pick them up and play them — no laborious construction of an avatar, no cinematic cut scenes, no “training levels” before you get to the real game.

    This gives the excuse to dust off one of my favorite links, “The Best Games You’ve Never Heard Of” — a compendium of (hilariously fictitious) games for the Atari 2600 or Intellivision, such as “Bosom Buddies,” “Free the Falklands!” “Kramer vs. Kramer: The Game”, etc. Worth following and clicking on the games if only to see the loving, painstaking way they recreate the visual aesthetic of the game screens themselves:

  5. Actually, we’re doing retro gaming for Teen Tech Week this year 😀 Though, we’re not going out to buy the systems, we have one of those cubes that has all those old games on it or staff are bringing in their old systems.

  6. Toys R Us had an Atari Console Flashback 3 listed in their Black Friday sales. I was tempted, but you’d have to pay me big money to go near TRU on Black Friday.

    I’m holding out for a Commodore 64.

  7. Caleb Dunaway says:

    I did this back in June where I work (in Kentucky). Brought in my NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis with multiplayer-friendly games, hooked the NES up to the projector (for the inherent anachronism of 8-bit graphics on a wall projector) and the other two systems up to a TV, and let ’em have at it. Pretty good turnout, too, and I had kids sign up from ages 10 to age 17, and everyone had a blast, except the poor kid who started his Mega Man 2 game with Quick Man and discovered that stage’s insta-kill laser maze of death.

    The only real difficulty is hunting down the carts if you don’t already have them (or have a staff member who does), which can get pricey. The really common games can be cheap, but some titles had low print runs and have high collector demand (Chrono Trigger and Earthbound are the prime SNES examples).

  8. Several years ago, my library had a loose historical theme for our summer reading program. One of my teen programs was a Gaming Rewind–we had our Wii set up, but also an original NES, ColecoVision, and an old (old, old) laptop running the original Carmen Sandiego games, complete with the almanac proudly labeled 1986. All systems were out of my personal collection. The kids thought it was all pretty great, and a few were completely enamored with Carmen Sandiego.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Okay, Caleb this is great info. Particularly the high collector aspect. Any Loderunner? That was my fav back in the day.

      And Brandy, the inclusion of Carmen Sandiego is fantastic. The fact that she hasn’t ended up in a movie or a book series for kids yet (sure she’s a villain, but who cares?) shocks me every day.

  9. My library hasn’t tried anything like that, but I love the idea. I could pull out my old NES and SuperNintendo and let them go to town!

  10. They say there will be a Carmen Sandiego movie soon, with J Lo of all people. Hmmm.

  11. I had a retro gaming afternoon at my old library! It was part of our regular teen gaming series, but I busted out my own NES and SNES one day for the kids to enjoy (and gawk at the low res graphics). It was really fun!

  12. We had a retro video game night for Teens at our library. It was awesome! One of our librarians kept all of her old gaming systems and games from childhood. We had Atari, Coleco, Nintendo 64 and the Nintendo Game Cube. The teens were really frustrated (especially with Frogger) because they couldn’t get to the next level of any game. They said the adults were “cheating” because we beat their score EVERY time!!

  13. J.P. Porcaro and tons of other 8bitlibrary folks have done retro gaming programs with all the “antique” systems. One fun thing you can do is make it a multigenerational activity and invite the parents and grandparents who played the games when they first debuted.