Gaming Nostalgia: Good And Bad
Nos·tal·gi·a (n -st l j , n -). n. 1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.
George Wildman once said: “Nostalgia is a seductive liar.” No more wiser words have been said, especially when it comes to games and gaming history. Because of hardware advancements and the ever improving game industry, what used to be cutting edge 10 years back is now classified as being retro, where 20 years ago is classified as ancient. But nostalgia is a funny thing; in your mind’s eye a game from 10 years ago was simply amazing, till you decide to play it again, then it turns out it wasn’t as amazing as you thought.
Using a good example would be an old TV show of the 80`s, Knight Rider. Back when I was a kid it was my favourite show it had a car with artificial intelligence and lots of fancy lights, switches and dials and a tough-guy hero dressed in cowboy boots, a leather jacket and awesome aviator sun glasses. Meanwhile 25 years in the future I decided to watch it again, and it was absolutely terrible. The stunts they pulled looked like something shot in their parent’s backyard, and WTF was David Hasselhoff thinking with that hairstyle? Nostalgia is a funny thing… the same principles can be used with basically any other entertainment form, including games.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is a place for nostalgia in gaming. For instance, we still have retro gaming, but these should be firmly rooted in the past not present. And as always, the good old game developers and publishers have taken advantage of this nostalgia feeling, where they provoke gamers every now and then with HD re-releases of games from 10 years ago. This isn’t a bad thing in itself, because people who missed the game first time around are offered a second chance at playing the game. The problem starts when they don’t give the games the attention they need and deserve, like the excellent Metal Gear Solid HD Collection. Instead, developers land up releasing something for the sake of making a few quick bucks, like the terrible Silent Hill HD Collection.
Despite that, you have to give game developers and publishers credit for using nostalgia as a tool to make even more money off gamers. Hence my belief that nostalgia should be firmly rooted in the past and not in the present. Which brings me to my next point, when gaming companies bring back old franchises from the dead: sometimes it works, like in the case of the Street Fighter and sometimes it fails terribly, like Duke Nukem. This, yet again, boils down to how much effort and money the developers and publishers push into the title. On rare occasions companies put in a lot of effort, like Rockstar with Max Payne 3. However, I can already see Azhar disagreeing with me on that.
All this bring me to my last and final point: when a developer recreates a franchise from a couple of years back, and makes a success of it, gamers then decided to put on nostalgia-glasses and find fault. Many gamers tend to feel that if the game that was re-created does not conform to the nostalgic feeling in their head, they are allowed to get angry and feel disappointed. “How dare they change my beloved franchise and adapt it to fall in-line with what modern games have to offer?” These are often the very same people who, in all likelihood, also complain when a franchise stays the same and does not move away from mechanics that made it popular.
You see, just like a game franchise needs to keep up with the times, so do game characters. Let’s take Max Payne for example: he has lost everything, he now drinks and abuses drugs every night, where after a couple of years doing this, you are of course not going too look like your former self. It’s certain that if you went through the crap that he has, your outlook on life would seriously take a knock. Not to mention, you will most definitely not be the same person you used to be, before the crap hit the proverbial fan. One then also needs to take into account that other developers were in-charge of the series. It has been 9 years since the last Max Payne was released, which is a massive amount of time, especially in the gaming world.
Dear members of the court, in closing, nostalgia can be an awesome thing for gamers like us, and I think it is important as we can see where the industry has been and were it is going. That said, it is also important to keep nostalgia in the past were it belongs, because if we focus too much on the past, we will loose focus on the present. Let’s take off the nostalgia glasses, move on, and not allow developers to take us on crappy rides. Because if it was up to nostalgia, we would still be playing 16-bit games with mono sound.