Space Invaders T-shirts don't cut it any more. The wave of 70s gaming nostalgia has passed and we've all realised that actually the original Donkey Kong was a bit shit. There's only so many times we can tell people that the princess is in another castle before we notice that no-one's laughing, and I can tell you that that happened some time last March.
We need the New Retro. We need a fresh way of reminding everyone that we were there when Al Gore invented the internet, handing him a screwdriver. Our geek cred is in the balance and as cool as it is to remix the Metroid theme out of the mewls of dying cats it's just not the pinnacle of our culture any more.
So here it is: the New Retro, with a helpful timeline of when, exactly, it will become cool. So as to let you beat the trend.
1) Dial-up modems - 12 months from now
Doesn't it already seem quaint? The idea of pushing data down a telephonic connection through the intermediary of an acoustically coupled modulator-demodulator? It's practically like making difference engines communicate with two cans and a piece of string. People back in those prehistoric times had their own quaint lingo. Try saying it: baud. Baud. It's like another world.
2) BASIC - 12 months from now
GOTO jokes never get old. The Beginnner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code is a source of do-it-yourself comedy that never runs dry, much like a geeky Horn of Plenty. (Geekier?) The number of situations that can be made funnier with a well-structured IF/THEN pun is so high as to be greater than the maximum valid length of A$. I dare you to prove me wrong.
3) Obsolete download protocols - 18 months from now
Start casually dropping references now to reap big social dividends later. For example, make it clear that you are on first name terms with Archie, a system which is not only obsolete but which allows you to search for content which is obsolete. Also, you should absolutely mention that this flash-in-a-pan "world wide web" has yet to catch up to where Gopher was in 1993.
4) The X-Files - 18 months from now
I will bet you small sums of cash that there are, in Hollywood right now, people shopping around the idea of an X-Files reboot. They have been there since approximately when the latest movie went into development and they are using words like reimagining and cross-generational appeal and Zac Efron as Mulder. Right now they are finding little traction but in in about 18 months we'll all have stopped remembering how crap The X-Files was and started remembering how awesome The X-Files was.
5) Space flight sims - two years from now
We've had our romance with the side-scrolling platformer, with the shmup, and with the point-n-click adventure. Now space flight sims get their turn in the sun. Bone up on the original Wing Commander and you will be a guaranteed hit with the ladies. How many missiles does it take to destroy a Dralthi? 1.4, motherfuckers. Compare that to seven direct laser hits on the same vessel.
6) The Dewey Decimal System - two years from now
This is the next big meme. It may have taken approximately 134 years to catch on but suddenly people are going to be dropping this baby everywhere. Geeks should get T-shirts reading "004-006", and being fired will be referred to as "getting filed under 040". It will be cool to know that phrenology gets a whole classification to itself under 139 and uncool to not understand cat macros annotated with "599.003 is 003".
7) Old webcomics - two years from now
We all stopped quoting Sluggy Freelance for comic effect about seven years ago. Now things have come full circle and it's time to begin quoting Sluggy Freelance for ironic effect. (I am about a year off from the joke being topical - but finally in the right direction.) Dropping references to PvP will no longer be tired but will instead be a subtle kind of wit reserved only for the best and most discerning of veteran webcrawlers. Unlikely, I know, but nevertheless scarily true.
8) Japanese dating sims - three years from now
Playing a hentai / ecchi title? Kind of embarassing. Knowing the history of the hentai / ecchi genre in meticulous detail, down to the minutiae of translation artefacts? Possibly even more embarassing - but not in three years! Mark my words, in 2012 being able to reference True Love 95 will make you "quite the hit" at social gatherings. Start getting your Three Sisters quotes onto cheap T-shirts now to reap the coming financial whirlwind.
9) Reboot - three years from now
The problem with the younger generation is that they grow up and then they think that the pop culture of their childhood is somehow as important and valid as the pop culture of your childhood. This is a scientifically verifiable lie but that's not going to stop those early 90s babies stomping all over the internet with their particular afternoon cartoon fandoms. Just when we're blessedly forgetting the likes of Kim Possible and SpongeBob Squarepants, every crappy 90s cartoon and its dog is going to get the retro treatment. One of the few bright sparks in this stygian sky will be a re-enthusiasm for the CGI trailblazer Reboot, so if you have relevant merchandising you should probably hang on to it with a scarily earnest death-grip.
10) Snakes On A Plane - four years from now
Snakes on a Plane. You may have taken this movie as a joke at the time, but its cult following will only grow in size and momentum. I predict that by 2012 New Line Cinema will finally cave in and allow director David Ellis to make the second and third movies in his planned epic trilogy, bringing the mythic arc of the first film full circle and delivering the closure that the cinema-going public deserve. Because, really, have any of us actually had enough of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane? I know I haven't!
So there you have it - the New Retro. As with all my posts, you should probably pay to get this one graven in bronze and installed in a prominent place in your town square. I accept thanks by way of cash, goods, and the adulation of the masses. Feel free to tell me if you think there's some upcoming retro that I've somehow missed, too.