Thoughts on the Past and Fondness versus Nostalgia


One of the downsides of being an older gamer is that there’s a danger we face the danger of moving from simply remembering the past with fondness into full-blown nostalgia.

What’s the difference, you might be asking?  Well, nostalgia does carry aspects of sentimental fondness, but it’s more than that.  It’s also an active desire that things, a situation, whatever, revert to an earlier state.  It’s that desire to ignore the present in favor of the past where the danger lies.

Now, it might be said that any gamer interested in “retro” or “retro-ish” gaming can be accused of nostalgia, but I don’t think so.  I like titles from the N.E.S. days, the SEGA Genesis days on up through to today.  Sure, the focus of this blog is a celebration of the games of yesteryear, but that doesn’t mean I don’t at least look at games today in my “off-time”, nor does it mean I think all of today’s games are terrible.

I know I’m not the only gamer who sees things like this, too.  Reading posts of people I’ve got on my Twitter account, I see a lot of “retro” gamers who also celebrate older gaming talk about having enjoying this or that modern game.

Now, that’s not to say the danger isn’t present, or that I never feel myself potentially succumbing to it.  Now and then I’ve caught myself making the unfair comparisons between a game published twenty years ago to one published recently, thinking to myself that the new one just can’t hold up.  I know that’s true for others as well.  We just usually catch ourselves, and shake our heads in amusement at our own fallacy.

The thing is, games made in such distant time-periods can’t be compared.  Not only is the technology involved vastly different, but, most importantly, the mentality involved is even more dissimilar.  Gamers want different things, now, than they did twenty years ago or even ten years ago, for that matter.  The developers and publishers know this and alter their game-making strategies accordingly.

As has been said numerous times before, making video games is a business, and if they don’t cater to what the gamers say they want, they aren’t going to make enough money.  If they don’t make money, they’re not going to make as many games.  While it’s of course unlikely that a company like Electronic Arts or Blizzard would close its doors, if they don’t make enough money, they will stop producing certain games, to focus on the titles that are selling.  That means a lot of gamers become unhappy.

The danger in celebrating our hobby’s past is a very real one, as nostalgia turns us from gamers interested in the past and how it shaped the present and the future to gamers with blinders on, unable to see anything that isn’t in eight or sixteen bits as interesting, compelling, and simply fun.

The area that danger resides in the most is our obvious preference for the games of the past.  Sure, we can enjoy today’s games, but we prefer older ones, for whatever reason.  That’s perfectly fine and reasonable.  But that preference can all too easily shift into believing that this preference for older games means that no game of today can ever be as “good”.

There isn’t really such a thing as inherent “good” or “bad” in video games the only real important factor is if the gamers that play them find them fun.  Some older gamers don’t find many of today’s games fun, this is true, but it’s as much because games of today aren’t made for us, as we discussed last Thursday.  Sometimes we lose sight of that, the fact that games of today aren’t really marketed for the older gamer, and when that combined with losing sight of a personal preference being just that a personal preference that’s what lets the nostalgia grow.

It’s not always easy, of course, to remind ourselves of all those things.  We all have busy lives, which sap our finite mental energy, and at the end of the day, thoughts relating to a hobby are and should be the first things to go.  The more we can remind ourselves that it’s just a personal preference, that there are so many differences between games of today and games of yesteryear, and all the rest if we can remind ourselves of all that, we’ll find nostalgia hard to fester.

The harder it is for nostalgia to fester, the easier it will be to just sit back and enjoy our games, shrugging when younger gamers don’t think anything older than the most recently released first-person shooter is “relevant”.

It will be easier to actually enjoy a hobby that’s supposed to be about fun in the first place.

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