Something I like to do from time to time is read a retro review from one blog or another, or even in Game Informer back when they used to do those. It’s fun to see if an old game you love holds up in the modern age. Whether they do or not varies from writer to writer, but most of the always say in way way or another is that they’re attempting to review the game while putting aside nostalgic feelings. I agree that a game should be weighed on it’s actual merits rather than our feelings about it, but recently that qualifier has gotten me wondering: what exactly does nostalgia do to our games?
The simple answer is that it makes overlooking flaws easier, but I believe that there’s more going on than memory’s influence easing our play experience. Nostalgia is the recollection of good times past, so while we’re playing we must also be remembering. If we are remembering while we’re playing then it isn’t really the game itself, no matter how good or bad it actually is, that is actually shaping our opinion of it. More than anything else, it’s the associations the game carries which we enjoy when we play. So again, what has happened to the game? Is it still just a game, or does the associations it carries make it something else, something more?
On UWG I’ve talked about The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask on several occasions, and it’s because I’m a fan. I’ve been a fan of the game since I first played it. I know everything there is to know about it: How to get everything, where and when to get it, how to beat the bosses, secret ways to beat the bosses, all the glitches, all the character stories. Everything. I’ve logged at least 10 playthroughs since getting it 13 years ago. I should be tired of it. I should never want to look at it again, but that’s not the case. Instead, I enjoy it far more now than I ever did when I first got it, and I know it’s because of the memories it carries. For me it’s not Majora’s Mask anymore, it’s the latter half of my childhood. It’s middle-school, high-school, and my college career all wrapped up in one cartridge. The point here being that when I play it, it’s not really the game I’m looking at anymore but rather everything good that went on around it. It’s not a game it anymore, it’s something else, a symbol.
My answer to the original question is that nostalgia transforms our games into something more. That’s just me though, what does it do to your games? Has nostalgia had a similar effect? Something else entirely? Or nothing at all?