Nostalgia - How Sweet Memories Hide Sour Experiences
Posted Jul 26, 2018 by JordanH
How the beloved games of our past continue to make us sink money into games of today.
The loud, responsive, tactile clicks and clacks of cheaply constructed plastic controllers. The low-resolution textures, the models made of triangles, the people who control like tanks, and tanks that control like boats. You can imagine the video games I'm talking about - the ones we played as kids, the ones that we always hear people reference. Referenced in yearnings of days of old, referenced in pitches of concepts and ideas, and referenced in the pleas for your money from Kickstarter developers throughout the industry, there is a very powerful and very real weight to the ideas behind nostalgia. It's a marketing tool, a gimmick that for some reason has yet to wear thin, and a pair of rose-tinted glasses with the ability to make "this is a product unacceptable by modern standards" sound like the Hot New Thing.
But what IS nostalgia? Well, I'll tell you - know your enemy, right? Nostalgia is defined as "a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations." In a much less wordy and a much more manageable definition, it's simply looking back at The Good Old Days with a smile on your face. Companies and developers often then leverage this with the aims to create a product that rides through solely on those coattails, regardless of quality.
Prime example? Mighty No. 9.
People were ranting and raving about this game and their excitement for it like there was no tomorrow. Anywhere and everywhere I went, I heard it.
"Mighty No. 9 looks so good!"
"I hope the wait for Mighty No. 9 is worth it!"
"I can't wait for Mighty No. 9!!!"
Mighty No. 9, for those who don't know, is essentially what happens when Nostalgia-itis is applied to the idea of Megaman. Also for the same uninitiated individuals, I will note that Mighty No. 9 has gotten painfully mediocre reviews. So WHY? Has the Nostalgia machine failed? Is Nostalgia over?
No, Nostalgia did its job and got people hyped, got people buying, and got people playing. It also did exactly what it was supposed to do - it blinded people to some of the major annoyances that come with the reminiscence, such as the fact that Mega Man can be an annoying and frustrating game to play. Tie in the fact that the developers worked harder to capture the idea of Mega Man than they did to encapsulate what REALLY made the Mega Man games so great - level, enemy, and boss design that pushed and tested players and ensured the necessity to use one's arsenal to the fullest - and you get a game that feels more like an idea that everyone loved in theory and in theory alone.
But Mighty No. 9 is not the only offender.
No, we've all seen them. The games that moved to try to capitalize on all manner of aesthetics and ideas. Games who thought "8bit" and "retro" were actual traits that could be used to define a product, rather than describe it at its most shallow level. The games that promise to "play just like they used to".
But I, personally. think we're better than this, and I'm sick of it. I am! I really think we need to do our best to slay nostalgia. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be tricked and misguided into buying the same game for the eleventh time only to find out we actually hate the dang thing! We need to stop letting people take our money and say they're making this great return to everything we love, only to create something flaccid and half-baked wearing an almost parody-like costume of the memories we were looking to embrace. We need to say, "Yes, I have great memories of these games and their concepts, but this is a new day with new video games and with new ideas. We need to move forward. To innovate. To live in a new and interesting world!"
We need to accept that we're not only going to live off of nostalgia. We need innovation. And while I'm sure there'll always be a place for "SUPER HD MEMORY-MIX NOSTALGIA-BOMB REMIX FULL-REMAKE REMASTERED ULTRA" editions, I'm not sure if people should strive to emphasize it.