Thoughts on Gaming Nostalgia

It’s a part of every gamer who is interested in “retro” gaming.  It’s a part of our hobby, too, in many ways.  It’s a part of our love for the hobby, it can help bring gamers together in fellowship—but it can also be dangerous.  Today, we’re going to discuss nostalgia.

As Merriam-Webster defines it:

2: a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition; also: something that evokes nostalgia

Nostalgia is, again, a large part of our hobby, especially for those of us with a fondness for games of yesteryear.  The problem comes when the nostalgia overwhelms the fondness.

There’s nothing wrong with preferring one era or aspect of gaming to another; as I’ve said numerous times, I think the ‘Nineties were the best years for gamers.  Preference is one thing—an avid wish for the proverbial clock to be turned back is another.  When we take the stance that there can be no good games today solely because they are made today, that’s nostalgia at its worst.  That is not only an affront to plenty of good games made recently, but it’s also a slap in the face to modern gamers and modern developers as well.

Personally, while I prefer the ‘Nineties for gaming, I enjoy quite a few modern games; for example, I quite enjoyed the recent Prototype.  It did what it the developers set out to do, and was quite accessible for gamers of nearly all skill level.  There are other modern games I enjoy, too, though I do prefer older games—but only in general.

Nos-Goggles®--one size fits all!

To me, older games aren’t necessarily “better”, since that’s a purely subjective quality without objective merit.  I like what they “meant”, as developers were still figuring out what could be done, they were trying to figure out where the boundaries even were before they could see how to push them.  That doesn’t mean modern games aren’t as “good”—the boundaries have been mostly found, developers and gamers alike have a good idea of what games can “do”, so it’s all a matter of fine-tuning and pushing those boundaries.

As mentioned yesterday, as we gamers grow up, so, too, must our games.  As a new generation takes over the role of target demographic, game developers must adapt their games.  For some gamers, however, adaptation in itself is a form of decay; somehow, the very fact that a game franchise or the games created by a certain developer and released by a certain publisher changes—somehow that means that, to use the vernacular, it “sucks“.

Another problem with nostalgia is how easily it can be waved off.  Saying “this is going to sound like the grumblings of an old curmudgeon” and then launching into a diatribe about how young gamers these days perhaps shouldn’t, for one example, speak to the importance of a game they haven’t played—that really does seem like nostalgia has taken hold.  I didn’t walk in the any of the marches with Martin Luthor King, Jr., but I understand how important they were for civil rights.  You can study something and come away with an understanding of its importance, of what it “means”—that’s what retro gaming is really about.

If it weren’t, if none of the hundreds—if not thousands—of us writing blogs and making videos and everything else relating to retro gaming weren’t trying to show something to people who may not have studied it on their own—we wouldn’t be doing it.  There’d be no point.  There certainly wouldn’t be any financial viability in things like “demaking” modern video games for older consoles, or even just “demaking” the artwork.

"Halo" demake by

We do this, all of us, because we enjoy it and want others to understand it.  If they couldn’t actually understand it, there would, again, be no point in it.  If I thought a younger gamer couldn’t appreciate older games, I wouldn’t be writing this, and I admit to having the temerity to say such is true of nearly every other retro and retro-ish blogger out there.  Most of us do it because, while we do of course feel some level of nostalgia, we don’t let it over-ride us.  We remember that, at the end of the day, what we have is a preference.

One of the worst dangers of nostalgia, in my opinion, is that it can keep us from coming together to celebrate our hobby.  There are plenty of things doing that already—the fact that we can play any game we like without having to even see another person is a big issue (though not one to go into today), so why should we add onto the pile?  Nostalgia is something we can work with, counter-act when necessary when it threatens to keep us from coming together to celebrate the hobby and our different preferences instead of bickering over the different preferences.

At the end of the day, celebrating the hobby is what it’s all about.  Whether it’s sharing stories, exchanging game data through hand-held systems, or talking about a preference for one aspect of it and trying to get people to think and talk about it—when all is said and done, it’s all about celebrating this hobby of ours.  Anything that keeps that celebration from happening really is a danger, and something that affects us all.


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