Clamoring for a round of 'Pac-Man'

E3 game enthusiasts get a touch of nostalgia with old handheld games and classic arcade machines like Galaga. Photos: Yesterday's game favorites

LOS ANGELES--Sometimes the road to the future starts with a stroll down memory lane.

Or maybe the dozens of people playing classic arcade games at the massive E3 trade show here were just goofing off. Either way, the event's "interactive game museum" was a hit with attendees eager for a chance to play their favorites from yesteryear. Those at the "museum" could take a peek at some mighty old handheld games or get their hands sweaty playing on old consoles like Mattel's Intellivision or on classic arcade machines like Galaga.

Classic games

On one end of the museum was Mark Rizzo, vice president of operations for Perpetual Entertainment, an online game company. He was busying himself with a game of "Pac-Man" on an Atari 2600.

"The first thing I remembered was that really horrible sound it made," Rizzo said after his game was done. "I just wanted to hear it again."

Nearby, a woman played "Super Mario World" on the Super Nintendo console, while a man gave up after a short stint at "Mortal Kombat II" on a Sega Genesis machine.

Classic games are more than just nostalgia for the computer game industry. Such games have made a comeback in recent years, particularly because the classics now require such little horsepower. That means games like "Pac-Man" can be ported relatively easily to cell phones or even built into joysticks that plug into TVs.

Even the big console makers see potential in old hits. Both Nintendo and Microsoft are tapping classics as another reason to buy their latest devices. Microsoft, for example, said at a pre-E3 press conference on Monday that it has struck deals that will bring games like "Paperboy," "Dig Dug" and "Root Beer Tapper" onto the Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live Arcade.

Indeed, said Rizzo, once he got going, it was easy to imagine playing for 20 minutes or a half hour.

"The funny thing is that it's still fun," he said.

Others found they were no better at the games than they were in their youth. "I'm still stuck in about the same place," ATI Technologies manager Ed Chen said following a round of "Centipede."

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