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Return of the CRT: A Gamer's Mid-Life Crisis

That CRT you had is going to come back in style.

By Chris CarabottPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
Return of the CRT: A Gamer's Mid-Life Crisis
Photo by Frank Okay on Unsplash

I remember getting rid of that old, bulky CRT television I had from the early-to-mid 2000s. It was a Sony Wega 20” and I got it on a payment plan from Future Shop. I loved that TV. But what I loved even more was kicking its giant and heavy ass to the curb in favor of a brand spanking new 2006 Sharp 37” HDTV. It weighed half as much and offered a larger, superior picture.

Of course, back then, I didn’t consider the gaming benefits of those old CRT displays. Far from my mind was the idea that one day I may want to go back and revisit a few favorites from the past with pixel perfect accuracy on a cramped 4:3 screen. Surely, playing those old games on a modern TV would suffice? Technology is moving ever-forward and who was I to question the march of progress.

My 20" Sony Wega. Yes, I know my room was a mess. (2002)

Besides, playing my modern games in gorgeous 720p widescreen would leave me not-wanting for those old classics.

Well, at least that is what I told myself.

I am not sure exactly when the retro-gaming itch kicked in. I know that it hit me much later than others because prices for old games had already reached ludicrous amounts. When it did hit me, it started off slow. I just wanted to experience a few of the old favorites again. The trouble was that most game publishers were completely miss-managing their retro game libraries. They still are.

At least with an inexpensive gaming pc it was easy to turn to emulation to satiate my desire for the classics. It worked and still does to some extent. If I want to jump into a game of Rock n’ Roll Racing I have several devices that will have it up and running in minutes.

My old 37" Sharp. Yes, I should have dusted. (2007)

We truly live in remarkable times.

After a while that wasn’t enough, however. Two decades of gaming muscle memory had finely tuned me to what those old classics should feel like, and while emulation did a good job of replicating the experience, I still found myself taken out of the experience every-so-often.

Then there is the tangible side of the retro-gaming experience. A big part of the nostalgia when revisiting the classics is holding those old cartridges or discs in your hand, slotting them into original hardware, and flipping through full color manuals filled with images and information. Plenty of those old manuals had a note section as well for jotting down passwords or secrets.

And let’s not forget the smell of a fresh new manual. Or was that just me?

The thrill of a more tangible retro-gaming experience drove me toward an FPGA solution. If you don’t know what FPGA, well you can read about that right here.

The Analogue suite of consoles, including the Mega SG, Super NT, NT Mini Noir, and Analogue Pocket have allowed me to enjoy my slowly growing collection while also taking advantage of their ability to run ROM images. It’s a pricey solution but I get to enjoy using physical media with original controllers on a modern TV. FPGA also provides an incredible amount of console accuracy so that those old games feel just like you remembered.

Source: Analogue

So, I should be content — right? Have I reached the pique retro-gaming experience with my FPGA consoles? Well, yes… and no.

Well, not every classic console has a suitable FPGA solution and the optional HDMI connection solutions released in recent years don’t always provide the best picture.

That’s why I have a 21” Toshiba CRT sitting behind me right now with an original Sega Saturn and Nintendo hooked up to it.

The New Hotness (2022)

I have come full circle.

That bulky and heavy CRT I kicked to the curb. The one I never wanted to see again. Well, almost 20-years later it has found its way back into my life. It’s not as feature rich as my old Sony Wega, only sporting two composite inputs, but it will do just fine.

I had not turned on a CRT in years and when I first powered up my Toshiba, which I liberated from a friend’s place, that twang sound and static shimmer was sweet music to my ears.

While I don’t think I will be using it that much retro-games look just right on it. Pixel sprites being displayed in the natural environment they were designed to be seen is what the CRT experience is all about.

I am sure it’s not for everyone but judging by the continued rarity of CRTs and the rising prices on eBay, it’s a growing market among middle-aged gamers wanting to relive the good old days of gaming. Hopefully, there are a few of a younger generation who want to experience these classic games the way they were meant to be played as well.

One of the experiences I am most excited about, and something I took for granted originally, is trying out a lot more light-gun games. Beyond playing Duck Hunt in the 80s I never really got into the light-gun gaming scene beyond the arcade and its not a genre easily experienced on modern televisions. The CRT is simply the best way to experience old light-gun classics and I can’t wait to try them out.

So, if you’re an avid retro-gamer and your back hasn’t completely given out yet, you might want to pick up a CRT television before they become impossible to find.


About the Creator

Chris Carabott

I’m a Toronto, Ontario native with over 13 years of freelance writing experience in the fields of television, video games, and technology. I have written hundreds of reviews and articles for websites like IGN, Vocal, and Medium.

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    Chris CarabottWritten by Chris Carabott

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