Nostalgia

I subscribe to the opinion that nostalgia in excess is a toxic impulse. But it also a seductive one. It's not hard to see why nostalgia grabs work, but what do they say about the state of the industry?

There's a wide way this can be interpreted, from offical sequel cash-ins to spiritual successors. I love to see a new iteration on an old idea but what's the fine line between that and regurgitating that old idea and then trying to polish the new turd?

I dont want to demonize nostalgia. We all have it to degrees. And I definitely dont want to make it sound like I'm accusing those who are into retro gaming of being fully driven by nostalgia. Even if some are I think that the role nostalgia can play in people getting involved in historical preservation projects is important. The first step to getting people to care about preservation is getting them to care at all in the first place.

But there is nothing new under the sun. In the case of my love of Phantom Dust it's not that I am dying to see a direct remake, it's that I havnt seen those kinds of game mechanics anywhere else. Nostalgia can get weird when you're just hoping for a particular singular thing to exist again because nothing else has yet to exist like it.

I open the floor to discussion

I certainly agree with regards to a dislike of chasing nostalgia for nostalgia‘s sake alone. I think a classic example of how bad this can be is the brand Supreme: they have weaponised nostalgia with a pinpoint focus on 90’s kids that have now grown up and are now young professionals with disposable income and a deep desire to avoid admitting they are becoming “old”.

As far as games go, I personally enjoy older things because there is as much discovery to be had there for me as there is with new releases. There is a period somewhere around the early to mid 90's (highschool was 90-96 for me) where I transitioned from "gotta play _everything_" to just seeking out things I figured I would genuinely be interested in. Now, after all this time changing and refining my tastes in gaming there is a huge catalogue of things I missed that I can go back to and see for the first time. I don't really see this as chasing nostalgia, even though they are all "old games".

The bad forms of chasing nostalgia for me have been the trends over the last .. 5? years or so where pepole were putting out games where the main draw was that they were a simulacrum of older generations. If the most interesting thing you have to say about your game is that it has pixel art for example, I'm uninterested. So many games' first line in their steam blurbs read like "An 8bit retro pixel graphics ..." and I just scroll on by.
Please note! I'm not saying I dislike pixel graphics! Far, far from it infact. Just -- it is a solid heuristic, at least for me, that if that is the first thing a game blurb calls out this means there is actually nothing of interest under the surface. This is likely just yet another nostalgia marketing play.

_That_ is the sort of toxic nostalgia I would be most happy to see disappear.
(I fear I have no hope on that front, however)

There‘s nostalgia for the fleeting romance and leisure of your youth, and then there’s nostalgia that emerges from the miasma of images and advertisements you‘ve been surrounded with your entire life – not a memory you ever owned or earned, but objects you coveted or were suggested should have significance for you. The veil between engaging with contemporary culture and being a consumer has never been thinner (if that margin exists at all anymore). If we’re only haunted by a future we thought we wanted, what kind of existence are we actually allowed? What is behind our want to possess the past?

For me, I do think it is a very personal desire to have control of things that I didn't have control of as a child. And I've found that to actually be a desire with limits, because I have so much more agency and autonomy now as an adult to pursue pleasures (especially ones that aren't solitary, as games often are). I think you need to be aware of why you're participating in these bits of culture, to investigate what need you're actually trying to meet.

Some big thinkers in the past have said that we'll enter a kind of consumer-ouroboros, when the cycle of our buying and remaking and wanting for the previous things will accelerate into a kind of capitalist hellscape from which we can't escape from (surprise lol). But I'm not so sure that nostalgia is actually a dead end, even if it's that sort of haunted nostalgia Mark Fisher wrote about; zoomers made vaporwave despite not living through it. It's critical that we keep looking ahead to the actual, real future while eating the ghosts of mazes past.

Nostalgia is kind of an interesting part of my life. I do believe that you should always be looking forward, but sometimes looking back has its uses too. I find myself trying to recreate the way I felt during certain parts of my life by playing games or listening to music from different eras. In my twenties I went through this phase where I wanted to “grow up” so I purged my collection of alot of my old games and toys and now, in my thirties, I really wish I hadn‘t done that. It’s important to appreciate and remember the times gone past because they'll never ever be here again.

But getting stuck in the past is kind of a drag. I had this job that I loved that changed for the worse and I spent a whole year depressed about it, thinking about how things used to be all the time. I didn't want to try to move forward because I just didn't feel like it could get better than how it was. I'm sure a lot of folks feel that way about things.

As for nostalgia in games, I completely agree with what @rejj said. The nostalgic "retro pixel graphics" is pretty annoying to me. I do like newer retro style games, but don't like when the whole game is boiled down to that kind of simplicity.

I collect older games over new ones just cause I'm fascinated by the tech from back then. Games systems these days are kinda just like computers in a box, but back then they got real creative with custom chips and hardware tricks and find that stuff really interesting.

@Moon#24535

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@Moon#24535 It’s not hard to see why nostalgia grabs work, but what do they say about the state of the industry?

What does it say about the state of culture? On the one hand, is nostalgia driven by people who's lives peaked on a saturday morning at the age of 9 watching cartoons and playing video games, and they just want to go back? Or is culture actually turning over too quickly? More precisely, has capitalism pushed cultural production to such a rate that actual human beings can't keep up? Kind of like it's done with everything else.

How long has what we think of as nostalgia been a phenomenon? I don't think there's any way to know. Could be it's a symptom of our culture, could be it's how brains work past a certain age.

It's just really hard to judge. I've seen compilations on youtube of 90's tv commercials, and that gives me the horrors. On the other hand, I play a lot of Saturn games and games of that era. That probably gives someone the horrors too, but I don't even think of it as nostalgia.

Maybe the whole question points to too much preoccupation with culture, culture construed as a set of brand preferences an individual holds, as if that's something of any real importance.

I better stop before I pry open my third eye.

@Syzygy#24555 everyone who‘s old looks back at their youth and it often looks good, because that’s when they were young. i‘m not so sure that’s actually the same as craving the media you grew up with.

I feel very fortunate to have purged myself of any longing for any bygone era. I think I would lose my mind if I continued to feel that what I sought was always just out of reach or slipping from my grasp.

BUT what I do want is ACCESS. Games where no better in the 80s and 90s than they were now. So if I go back it is to study / enjoy what they were doing back then. I think this is why I am making more and more effort to play games I NEVER played back in the day. I can look at them with some objectivity.

Everyday I have a better understanding of the world and of myself. What is there to long for in the past?

while acknowledging that all of my opinions are conditioned by what i‘ve been (often unwillingly) exposed to………for me nostalgia is just wanting to revisit stuff that i have a strong emotional attachment to because it was presented to me at an age when i was less experienced and more impressionable. maybe that’s obvious but just want to define it concretely because it‘s totally distinct from what i’m seeking when i‘m going back and playing old games that i missed. in doing that i’m just looking to better understand the history of games and how ideas about what makes games fun have changed over time.

like probably everyone else here i agree that advertising a game as featuring retro 8 bit art or whatever is irritating. but at the risk of being extremely presumptuous i think that even people who are seduced by that line are kind of misinterpreting their own feelings. pixel art is so ubiquitous that it's just a normal form of expression. and as bodydouble's vaporwave example indicates that process of normalization can happen very fast. i think that in general people who like the models in project triangle strategy do so not because their brain is going "this is like final fantasy tactics", but because it's something they're used to, have come to expect, etc.

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@bodydouble#24538 The veil between engaging with contemporary culture and being a consumer has never been thinner

i agree but IMO we should note that consumerism has just been kind of layered on top of, maybe in some cases replaced, notions of identity that in the past might have centered on one's relationship with the state, membership in an ethnic group, etc. and of course very often those notions are useful as a mechanism of social control for elites. so not sure i'd say i've ever been allowed my own existence, any more or less than, say, a 19th century russian peasant might have been. we've just replaced a feudal oligarchy with a capitalist one

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@tapevulture#24563 replaced, notions of identity

would be interesting to know if this type of nostalgia is more common among less-ethnic or non-ethnic white people. In the absence of meaningful cultural practices maybe people are more inclined to get really mad about female ghostbusters whereas using myself as an example I could just put on a bobby vinton record

would also say I think there’s a distinction between liking old stuff for its inherent qualities v liking it because of the emotional/memory state it prompts.

I think wrt video games, the speed at which tech advances, and aesthetics supersede another, it feels to me like certain looks/feels are cast off before they really get going. So I could be wrong and again to use myself as an example, but I don’t think I’m "nostalgiac" for sega naomi arcade and Dreamcast games: that shit existed for like 3 years and was gone, and the aesthetics of it was intensely strong and not really carried forward...so I guess this sort of thing is intensified with in the vg medium maybe

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZHN-OFdEtM

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@yeso#24579 sega naomi arcade and Dreamcast games: that shit existed for like 3 years and was gone

I was real into the Sonic Adventure games as a kid and for a long time assumed my fondness for their aesthetics was rooted more in nostalgia than anything. That might still be true to some extent but it has been vindicating to read basically everyone in the forum's testimony that the blue skies/broader Sega look from the DC era was very cool even if you weren't a baby and that it didn't stick around for long.

Nostalgia is dope, I‘m pro-nostalgia. I’m an unashamed nostalgia junkie. I am anti-consumer and anti-capitalist to my core though, and I have self control, refined taste, and am self aware in that I am constantly creating new nostalgia by just living my life with new experiences all the time. And while by my spiritualist, Jane-ism standards I am highly covetous of my posessions, I have purged said belongings many times in the past, always getting rid of excess clutter, even when it's dope nostalgia pieces.

https://youtu.be/spcoJ8Xcqy8?t=503

In the context of the games industry, yeah, it's putrefied pretty badly. We should all be keenly aware of this by now. There is much pandering, and the great creators of the classics return as indies only to make overly derivative works that fail for various reasons.

When I think of toxic nostalgia though, I think of my hometown, and what it's like visiting there. The nostalgia hits hard, but, I should never have returned. I'm not supposed to be there. It's my living Hell, my living Silent Hill if you will. I'm reminded of this constantly, and it drives me to a panic as my brain screams "I gotta get out of here!!". And yet, seeing the terrain I used to explore as a kid and how it changed is always interesting.

There are toxic aspects to my video game hobby, but I don't believe nostalgia is one of them.

Consumerism is toxic, nostalgia is a valid emotion.

was thinking of this topic after watching the space jam 2 trailer. Looks like a ready player one situation with hundreds of “intellectual properties” barfed everywhere - including (not a joke this is real) - the a clockwork orange guys. Which raises the question whether anyone involved in making and implementing that decision has ever actually seen that movie (let alone read the book). Maybe it‘s a real actual joke, but that’s difficult to believe given how disconnected and commodified mass corpo entertainment like that is: hard to take a genuinely crass joke at face value


I think this tweet was very on point.

https://twitter.com/BrandyLJensen/status/1378372226177761284

@yeso#24576 certainly feels correct as a knee-jerk reaction

@yeso#24623

Yeah it feels like the people working on that movie really don't know who it's for. The jokes and story are all written for little kids but it's got all these scenes and references aimed at people who grew up in the 80s/90s. Definitely a nostalgia cash grab.


@treefroggy#24639 Now realizing I should have snapped this game up when it was reasonably priced. Woops.

@JoJoestar#24624

Excellent point/tweet. Listing things - especially things we know - is a creative crutch, and it’s easy to fall into that trap. It’s the Chris Farley Show asking Paul Mcartney “Remember Beatlemania?”

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@treefroggy#24589 There is much pandering, and the great creators of the classics return as indies only to make overly derivative works that fail for various reasons.

You **can** do it right. _MegaMan 9/10_ I really enjoyed! And I've never played _Mighty No. 9_ because whoooboy. Those reviews!

It's interesting watching my kids engage with older games because they don't have the temporal context. It's a double-filter though because they only get to play the older games that a) I enjoyed and b) I still enjoy. And they also think about them differently. There is not much difference in their minds between _Sonic 3_ and _Sonic Mania_. There's also not much difference in their minds between PICO-8 _Celeste_ and retail _Celeste_. They **love love love** _Kirby's Dream Course_ which is a game I had zero exposure to until I bought an SNES mini, they discovered it on their own.

[Leigh Alexander has a brilliant piece](https://medium.com/s/i-o/time-travel-on-the-youtube-express-1014d97c1bc7) about nostalgia via YouTube uploads of pre-WWW TV. She cites [Jia Tolentina's article in the New Yorker](https://www.newyorker.com/culture/rabbit-holes/the-overwhelming-emotion-of-hearing-totos-africa-remixed-to-sound-like-its-playing-in-an-empty-mall) about the manufactured cultural nostalgia for hearing Toto's Africa playing in a shopping mall.