Justin’s Words of Wisdom: Video Game Nostalgia
Although I am guilty of cynicism myself, I get annoyed at how much of it I see these days when it comes to the video game community. Most message board conversations arrive at the point where people revel in a massive amount of nostalgia. There are many posters who believe that gaming today isn’t nearly as good as it was a decade or two ago, and I have a problem with that sort of mentality.
I’m all for people having a variety of opinions. In fact, I am also guilty immersing myself in a few nostalgic memories. Obviously, many of my favorite games are from older generations. However, I think I have come to accept where most of those feelings stem from.
Before I truly dive into the subject, I want to make clear that I am not trying to tell anyone how they should feel. I’m not even presuming to know how you personally feel. I am merely speculating on why certain people feel they way they do when nostalgia and video games mix. Plus, it’s my damn column!! Seriously, this is just me basically theorizing. If any of the following pisses you off, don’t let it get to you.
What I think a lot of older gamers don’t realize/remember as that their perception of the world was vastly different as a child. You could grow up with the most terrible parents in the world coupled with having to deal with third world conditions, but many simple things in life can ensnare your attention during those innocent years. Sometimes certain media enters your life at just the right time. There are so many awesome memories attached to said media that anything current doesn’t really have a change of toppling such powerful experiences.
If technology grew at a slower pace and the Atari/arcade boom started to happen today, many people around my age (very close to 29 as of this writing) wouldn’t really care for it. Sure, I know about the reports of business men playing Pac-Man, Galaga, etc. on their lunch breaks back then, but how many of those people kept up with the industry?
Some people need to face up to the fact that sometimes being young played a huge part in the reason why an old PC or NES title seems so much better than any billion dollar blockbuster game released today. Yes, there are countless older games that blow away games that have dropped in the last five years, but there are also a mountain of games from the bygone era that sucked a lot more than the worst video game on store shelves today.
Every single time I see someone bitch about shovelware I release a huge, disappointed sigh. I believe I talked about this in my Casual Games article, but allow me to repeat myself a bit. Like I said a year ago in that very same article: Shovelware is not a new thing. Stop falling back on that excuse to support your point that gaming sucks today. Plus, you’re not an idiot. Even people who only buy a couple of games a year can tell the difference between a well-produced game or some cheap cash-in. This “phenomenon” isn’t nearly as bad as some people make it seem.
There are exceptions to what I am saying, and I understand that. I have a sister that’s ten years younger than me yet she legitimately loves games that I grew up with more than current games on average. However, there’s a catch. Many of these games she played were when she was a very small child. Plus, some of her other favorite games are on the Nintendo 64. Not many people my age would include as many games from that time as opposed to older titles.
I once again find myself coming to the conclusion that timing is the key to why so many people feel this way. Ten years ago I remember seeing message board threads talking about 8-bit and 16-bit games like they were the holy grail. Now that there are a whole new set of gamers, I see more and more threads popping up and talking about gaming as if it started with the 32 and 64-bit era.
I have no problem with this. Usually, any game that is listed from an 80′s or 90′s child are excellent titles. I just hate to see when the same people who can write such positive things think that gaming today is terrible when the reality is that the more you age, the easier it is to get nostalgic. Gaming isn’t terrible today. It’s just not the same from how it was when you first started to play.
Many aspects in the video game industry has changed. There are certain aspects in gaming that is dying, but the new things that are growing from change are cool too. Hell, there are countless video games purposely designed like an older game. Most of these titles are either free or far less than the $60 companies are asking for today when it comes to big name titles. Only a few years ago the very same publishers would want you to shell out full retail price for a collection of old games or a title that resembles one, thus being minimalistic.
Older games are awesome. They are still a huge part of my life, and I will never grow tired of them. However, I’m not going to kid myself into thinking that I would feel the same way about them no matter when I was born. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing…I just wish that certain gamers could see past it and look at the brighter side of gaming today.
Original version of front page image from bitrebels.com, Galaga screenshot from blingcheese.com, Pac-Man screenshot from blogs.forbes.com, Total Recall screen from gamesdbase.com, Scott Pilgrim screenshot from shop.ubi.com.