Nostalgia. The word brings to mind a joyous familiarity felt when engaging in something in the present that we really enjoyed doing in the past. Gaming is no different. Everyone has games that brings back fond memories, what we think of now as, better times. Hindsight is a like the snob that points out what you could have done, hindsight tells us our childhood may not have been as bad as we thought. As adults we know how the world works. When we were growing up, we never really had a grip on the world. Hindsight tells us that those times were better, safer, less complicated. Games that bring on nostalgia puts us in the mindset of a kid again. It makes us feel safe, secure, and protected. Humans have a natural tendency to want safety and protection. Especially the adults, because as adults we know just how quickly the world can go from good one day, to horrible the next. As gamers we seek safety and security in games.
I started gaming when I was very young as most gamers my age did. I grew up playing Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 with my father and friends. Super Mario, Kirby, and Mario Kart were a few of the titles that we played. Zelda was perhaps the biggest game we played. Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo we beat many times. I say “we” but it was my father playing mostly not me or my friends! Even thinking about it while writing this I’m getting nostalgia. We kept getting close to the end and then the game wiping our save out so we started over like three times. It was good times. That was when I was around six or seven or eight. Long time ago. Nostalgia gives us hope for the future. It tells us that if good times happened in the past then more good times will happen in the future.
Finding my Niche
Later I started gaming on my own. It is hard to think about what game came next in chronological order but they all had a theme: single-player strategy. A broad gaming description that can fit a lot of games in it. Games like Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Age of Empires II, and of course Sid Meier’s Civilisation III. I was not allowed to play shooters as they had bad graphical gore in them and so was restricted to single player games. My parents were very protective and games were not as prevalent twenty years ago as they are now. Red Alert is a RTS placing you in a fictional War. The goal of the game was the build great bases and armies using the resources at your disposal and it was quite a challenge for an eleven year old. Age of Empires II is a real-time strategy game that is completely different from Red Alert. You have to balance resource collection and troop production to take down either AI or other players. Civ III was probably my favourite game growing up. To this day, I still play Red Alert and age of Empires II from time to time.
Think about what nostalgia is again for just a second. It is a feeling coming from a memory. A memory of “better times” that may or may not be accurate. Games we played a long time ago, that brings back those memories, might not continue to be fun. Civ III I played for hundreds of hours when I was younger is not as fun now that I am older so I do not play it as much now. Sometimes nostalgia lies.
In conclusion, nostalgia in games is a good thing. It allows us to relive parts of our childhood that we otherwise would not have a reason to bring back up from the depths of our minds. Many people say that video games lead to anti-social behaviour, violence, and a drop in school grades. Video games teach us how the world is. When you are playing multiplayer of any game you will usually find people who are just toxic. It prepares for dealing with the worst society has to throw at us. Human beings are prone to violence. The first murder happened when Cain killed Abel back in Genesis. I am pretty sure they did not have video games back then. So this point is always going to be moot. The only point that actually makes sense is the drop in school grades. It takes a great deal of discipline to do school work over video games. It builds character this discipline.
So next time you feel nostalgia coming on, take some time to stop and smell the memories. Bask in the thoughts of better times and the hope that good times are still ahead, no matter what the world tells you in the present. This is what video game nostalgia teaches us.