Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Taking off the Video Game Nostalgia Goggles

Like most Steam owners, I have a massive library full of games, more than I could ever play in a reasonable lifetime. I picked up the games for the usual reasons: they were on sale, someone recommended it, I was left unsupervised with a credit card, it existed... But there's a small group of games I have that I bought because I used to play them when I was younger, and computer advancements being as they are Steam is the only way I can play them. Recently while playing something from this list and I thought: "Why am I playing this? Why did I like this as a kid? How did I ever think that this was fun?"

The Issue with Nostalgia

Video games have a lot of components that contribute to making them a favorite. Gameplay, story, graphics, but I think most important factor is who you are when you play the game. Twenty years ago wanting to to be a roller coaster tycoon or march an army in the age of empires (You see what I did there?) would've been incredible. Hours spent perfecting a roller coaster feel like incredible creative freedom for a 13 year old, and it's remembered as having a wonderful time. 

However, years and pounds later, creative expression in a wonky finance sim with a tiny number of rides every level and no way to speed up time even though you ALREADY HAVE THE REQUIREMENTS to BEAT THE LEVEL so you have to SIT THERE AND WATCH THE STUPID AI GUESTS WANDER AROUND AND COMPLAIN ABOUT THE LITTER THAT THEY LEFT just doesn't have the same energy it once did. 

I'm not still angry.

So in short we remember the games we played as kids as being these wonderful experiences and try to play them now only to find them lacking because we've developed taste and have no tolerance for grindy nonsense. 

Good Nostalgia Use

The best use for nostalgia is to remember what you liked about the games you used to love and see if you can find modern interpretations of it. One game genre I loved was the Dungeons and Dragons based RPGs, like Baulder's Gate. However, Baulder's Gate was about as forgiving as deleting the ending of a loopy roller coaster to watch the riders crash because you've been playing for four straight hours and you're bored to tears. A few years ago the game Pillars of Eternity came out with all the best mechanics from Bauler's Gate but was easier to grasp and easier to get through, which makes it more accessible to all players. Nostalgia fueled the idea but the ideas of today helped make it better, creating a far better experience. Nostalgia should fuel innovation but not pull us back into the same things over and over. 

Lesson Learned

So now I've been reexamining all my Steam games looking for the ones I bought just for nostalgia sake, and the ones I bought because they reminded me of games I used to love. The list of inspired games is longer than I would've thought, showing that while the old games might not hold up their influence certainly does. If you're like me with piles of unplayed video games on your Steam list or other platform of choice, it might be worth going through some of the ones you bought for nostalgia sake and what it is you liked about them and see if some new games might fill that same gameplay need, but maybe with some much needed tweaks. 


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