Nostalgia in Gaming – The Cure or the Curse

Nostalgia is one of the biggest trends in the modern video gaming world. You only need to look as far as a release schedule to see sequels of games that have been running for years on end, and even games that have been re-imagined and reintroduced into the realms of gaming.

Nintendo is a company that beats the nostalgia drum quite heavily and with repeated fashion. Look at their top games line-up and you’ll see the likes of Mario and Zelda rearing their heads to cast their gaze over you and your wallet.

Nintendo has gotten it right for the most part. While a large portion of their games may come from the same universe, not many of them are absolute carbon copy or re-imaginations of older titles. Quite a few of them can stand on their own as solid examples of video games.

 

The Psychology of Nostalgia

Behind the nostalgia that you may feel while gaming is a rather sound psychological principle. It’s a mix of both positive and negative emotions that arise when thinking back to meaningful events. Media content is a trigger for nostalgia that can help people feel better about themselves and get rid of that solitary feeling.

Nostalgia can promote mental health and well-being. This especially true when teaming up with the same characters from before. These relationships, while social and complex, allow players to see these characters as extensions of themselves or members of their social circle.

 

Defining Nostalgia in Gaming

It’s a difficult task to look at nostalgic gaming because there’s no real answer as to how the games make people feel or indeed, what guides them towards these games. But you don’t need to look into too much depth to see why the games are defined as such.

The Final Fantasy series is one of the biggest inclusions, despite the games having advanced in terms of both graphics and gameplay. The newer games don’t feel much like the older ones at all. The stories have very little to do with each other (save for the remakes), but there is usually a common thread that lies within the games. The developers throw continuity out of the window in favor of the title to generate the feelings of nostalgia and sell games.

So, while you have to sort through the feelings that are generated by such titles, there are some new games that came out recently that spark the feelings of nostalgia, but still, in their own rights, are amazing games. Titles such as Cuphead and Undertale are two that strike an immediate spark. Both of the games have been designed to, either purposefully or accidentally, spark the feeling.

 

True Nostalgia

The truest form of nostalgia in every sense of the word is bringing back the games of old. Looking back through consoles like the SNES and even the Sega Mega Drive, we saw a bunch of games that defined the industry as a whole. Where would games be without the influences of characters like Sonic and Link? How would games be different today if it weren’t for the button mashing of the first fighting games, or chopping down multiple enemies in Golden Axe?

Looking back to the late 1970s, Oregon Trail is a game that few played, but many know about because of its meme power. The game was supposed to be a form of edutainment, teaching people about the settlers across the old west. It was able to teach you that every decision you make is probably the wrong one and will kill you without any fear of hurting your feelings. You’ll die of dysentery multiple times, and it’s as simple as that.

Going back to play the game now is a waste of time for most gamers. The game looks terrible is awkward to play. Its soundtrack is pretty shocking, to say the least and it has almost no replay-ability for the sake of being boring and repetitive.

Something like Ultima 7 was a game of true nostalgia. Had you sunk many hours into it when it was first launched, you’d understand everything about Britannia. The music as you entered Lord British’s castle, the way you and your companion Iolo had discussions over ale in the tavern, and even feeling sad for Spark, after seeing his father’s gruesome death. The game conjured up emotions, told weaved tales, had amazing music and was a genre-defining game that pushed the limits of technology at the time.

Opening the game now is a little different. It may be that technology plays a big part in why games cannot be felt the same way anymore. Games seem dated, clunky and obtuse. With gamers playing on huge monitors, and the type of gameplay and graphics we’re now accustomed too, those games of old can only do what they can to conjure up images of fun and joy from your youth.

Nostalgia isn’t always a saving grace though, as Duke Nukem Forever proved. Trying to relive the glory days in the world of first-person shooting, Duke Nukem Forever failed in every single avenue possible and was a mere shadow of the success of what Duke Nukem 3D was… Or was it?

Do we remember those games so fondly because they were that good or just because there were so few to choose from? Looking back at some of the more popular games that were available, they did seem to be rather difficult by comparison. Games wouldn’t last a mere 4-6 hours of gameplay. People would put months into games from the Mega Man series, constantly trying to best their enemies. Even games as new as Baldur’s Gate would boast upwards of 40 hours of gameplay.

The nostalgia of the gaming industry may be less about how good were the games we played, but more about the time spent in a world of fiction, enjoying the experience that lay out before us.

 

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Detroit: Become Human

It’s not so much about the story but the presentation of it. Similarly, the level of involvement makes for a more immersive experience. Naturally, a player *can* choose a more casual play approach, but, I do not recommend it.

Apart from Omikron: The Nomad Soul (which encompassed many different sub-genres), Quantic Dreams affairs much like the point and clicks of yore, are often backed by story and a certain cinematic pizazz to it all. A common moniker for such experiences: “interactive movie”. More recently, Telltale had had great success with their Walking Dead series, especially given that they had been multiplatform. As of late, Quantic Dream has focused more on console exclusivity for their IP. Very few of their games came out on PC and even so only in the very recent year with some announced upcoming on the Epic Games Store. One of the very first games I played from this developer was, of course, Omikron, but the one I liked the most and actually finished back then was Fahrenheit, more than a decade ago. Americans will know it as “Indigo Prophecy”, a name which I didn’t quite like but that is just one opinion…

Nevertheless, watching a movie is one thing, participating is another. There is a level of emotional engagement involved in choosing words, actions, reactions of a character and changing the story. Netflix tried to incorporate this in their movie “Bandersnatch”. Although it made less noise than I expected, I believe it was a first success nonetheless. There is an amazing amount of work gone into such stories. How often have you watched a movie and groaned at a specific character’s choice and wished you could just tell the idiot to “look out!” or do something else? Netflix has created a precedent in the movie industry. Even in gaming, not many apart from and David Cage’s Quantic Dream dare tackle this beast.

Imagine: for a specific scene you need to shoot as perfectly as possible a specific course of actions and consequences, action and reaction from multiple characters. Then, you have to go back and *reshoot* for alternatives. The handy flowchart in Detroit easily illustrates what his entails for one episode. Every node has to be mapped out, breaching out to different outcomes and each means extra work for the actors, the film crew, the writers, the graphic artists etc. When you sit and think about it, it is grueling and difficult work. It gives a whole different perspective on the 40 and so dollars I paid for it. Quantic Dream did not twiddle their thumbs and just “land” the game on our laps.

Detroit: Become Human is not entirely grounding breaking in its narrative. It takes concepts, which were the core of “I, Robot” by Asimov and puts a certain modern or “realist” spin on it. XXX, the undertones of slavery and the parallels to the segregation of the black population/ the apartheid are vibrantly evident. To go farther into this, I would recommend actually playing through in a less casual way. At the same time, there is the surprising fact that in many cases, which I shall not disclose, playing a character to the best of their persona will not be what you, as a player, desire. Needs and goals can clash. Going fully into “X” person’s character and M.O. may be detrimental to another. I should have expected this but I did not. It felt so much like playing a movie that I forgot characters you play can die if your choices, with them or with others, lead there. At the same time, I found out though that not all NPC deaths are immutable. It is not impossible to find ways to “save” them or keep them alive for as long as can be. Hint: always check the flowchart to guess what could be feasible.

All in all, Detroit: Become Human is an enjoyable experience for lovers of story-heavy games and choose-your-own-adventure books. Much of the important moments of the narrative are based upon the given characters own agency. Nevertheless, you as the player shape that agency to some extent, as well as other characters’ opinion of them. This simple fact makes the story last longer in my own mind. This is especially true given the parallels I can draw to the android plight as a person of color whose race has gone through what they are going.

 

Note: There is a Quantic Dream Collection out since the release of Detroit which includes also Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. It is a good deal for those who have never played any of those games before. Quantic Dream Collection – PlayStation 4

Resident Evil 2

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The release of Resident Evil 2 back in the day was a landmark moment for many gamers of my generation. Back then, lines weren’t quite so drawn between who gamed X or Y platform. We each had diverse consoles, Sega was still in the race with the greatly underrated Dreamcast released the same year. It was all a big melting pot of sharing games and consoles. Like many of my peers at the time, I only owned one console but bought many games for all the home devices on the market. We’d share around both our games and devices, to the enjoyment of all. Even playing single player games like Resident Evil 1 was a community effort where we all sat down and played. It was a great support system especially after experiences the jump scares, alone, at night. You just wish you had your buds next to you for support.

Incidentally, I remember my troubles during the PS1 era. I was adequately a big N follower (I still am but as maniacally). I did not have a Sony console and would not have one until the end of the PS2’s life cycle, during the peak of the PS3. Playing games such as RE mean leaving the borrowed console powered on and restarting entire levels after death because I did not have a memory card. This was resolved soon enough and I made it a point thereafter to always obtain every means of saving games possible for whatever console came out. I did not have the devices but you can bet I had their cards somehow. All of which was defeated once consoles started shipping with internal hard drives.

RE2 was difficult back then, like many games of the time. It was more than a question of the clunky controls (yes, we all remember the characters were actually two-legged panzers…), but the sheer level of unforgivingly slim margin for error. Furthermore, it was quite scary in a way we did not expect. It wasn’t the first “horror” game I played. But it was the first one on consoles for me, and it went to lengths I did not expect for a home medium which is usually rather colorful. I would expect this on most of my PC games but not here. Side note: I was for a very long time 80% PC gamer with 20% left for exclusives on consoles that may interest me.

Resident Evil 2 in 2019 is all of that…..times 10.

I am glad to see that most reviews also agree with this and it is not unexpected. Technology in the past gave us the best version of RE2 that it could. Technology in 2019 just gave us the means to play the RE2 that we, gamers, deserve. It’s a great start for those who never played the classic version. But, in my opinion, those who grew up with RE, like me, will enjoy this the most. This is not a review, it is an opinion and a bit of advice to go play it.

Now, excuse me while I go pray to the universe that someone does Silent Hill 2 at least half as good a service by remaking it to THIS stellar quality.

Opinion on Starlink: Battle for Atlas

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About now some of you interested in gaming have heard about “Starlink: Battle for Atlas”. Given the price point of entry, a lot of regular gamers will want to try it out in digital or physical versions just for the sake its genre mash-up. As put by a few YouTubers, quite rapidly after release, this game should have been called Starfox’s No Man’s Skylanders. Obviously from the name, one can easily deduce what trifecta? it seems to heavily inspire on.

Ubisoft may have stricken gold with this in all forms. There is most prominently the physicality of the regular (non-digital) versions of the game. All console base versions come with a physical ship and a pilot, except for the Nintendo Switch version which comes with Starfox as a pilot along with his trusted Airwing ship and another pilot from the game’s story. This is all well known at this time and been covered by games media. Consequently, for those who rather dislike digital versions of games, they will necessarily try out the toys even if they never were quite fans of such things. Heck, some people may discover they like actually having a physical ship on their controller to maneuver the ship on screen. And let’s not forget the compulsive collectors… As a result, a percentage of buyers will end up purchasing an upgraded weapon or extra ship/pilot pack and what will this add up to? Bundles of cash for Ubisoft!

By now, from reviews and videos, a lot has been said concerning the gameplay etc. As a reminder, whatever version of the software you opt to buy, this is and remains the most Starfox game ever, even for those who do not have the Switch version ; it is also the No Man’s Sky we were promised on day one as well as a great Skylanders type of game (toys to life). Which explains the long moniker used to create the new title lol. Controls are satisfying for me, although it can take a while to remember Starfox strategies from my old days, they are important in order to easily survive.

I have to point out, if it weren’t obvious to some, how Ubisoft is doing an amazing support of the Big N of late. They even have the very latest Assassin’s Creed on the Switch, albeit in streaming version only. Sure, it’s only in Japan for now, but even if it never makes it to the West, the fact that it was *done* anywhere at all is amazing. We already saw during the 1st year of the Switch how surprisingly good Kingdom Battle was. It was a true Rabbids game (those guys are nuts!) and a true Nintendo game with an Xcom framework. One does begin to see the mash-up trend does one not?

Ubisoft showed well how certain games can translate “well” to the platform and how AAA Third Party games don’t need to be just ports of past iterations. And now, with this new IP, they have made a multiplatform game where the best version in terms of content(both digital AND physical) happens to be on the Nintendo Switch.

The other versions are great in terms of technical performance since they are on much stronger platforms. Nevertheless, having both a PS4 and a Switch, it was a no-brainer for me as to which version of Starlink would be worth my money. Starfox means something to me. It was the very first game I possessed on the N64 and one of those out of which I got the most enjoyment with my friends (split-screen battles!). With all the extra dedicated story content, seeing the characters in a space exploration action-adventure is awesome. Without them, without the related exclusive content, Starlink still feels like an open-galaxy (see the wordplay there?) Starfox without humanoid animals.

Ubisoft is on a roll with the Switch. I actually feel like trying the newest Assassin’s Creed although I had sworn them off after AC: Unity. There is hope that the company has taken a form I can like again. Needless to say, Starlink BfA is one game I highly recommend to at least try. I have completed so far the entire main story as well as the Starfox content. There is still much to do such as completely scanning the fauna and flora, getting rid of Outlaw bases (I annihilated the dreadnoughts as soon as I could though). It’s just too bad there doesn’t seem to be a demo available. It would be so much more beneficial to the publisher in my opinion. At least half those who would’ve experienced the demo would surely buy it( by the way, it’s almost half off the price at the moment at most retailers).

Boss Fight Books 17/19: advance reviews

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Books 17 and 19 of Boss Fight Books series happen to be from two different seasons. Book 17: Katamari Damacy is the final book of season 3 while Book 19: Shovel Knight is the second book of Season 4. Having read all the books released thus far, it’s quite striking to notice the difference in feel among them. Season 4 of BFB is dubbed “Creator Access Edition”. As the name suggests it focuses most on the different studios and people involved in the creation of the chosen focus of the books. In contrast, many of the past books in this series were so much more about describing the games themselves in their intimate entirety in regards to narrative, but also the relationship of the author to said games. I should point out then that one of the books which most related to the author was Spelunky, Book 11, written by Derek Yu….the games creator!

As a backer of the season 4 of Boss Fight Books on Kickstarter, I am entitled to the entirety of the series up to the current season. Nevertheless, I received advance copies of both books for the purpose of this review. A big thanks to BFB and Gabe Durham for this opportunity! On with the books…

**Katamari Damacy

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Katamari Damacy is one those strange quirky games that your best friends may frown upon when they see you playing it, but secretly itching to get their hands on the controller. In my mind, I have difficulty dissociating it from Patapon which elicited similar reactions from my peers whenever I was found enjoying it. As the author points out in this books, this is a work leaning most on great gameplay, novelty and fun. It is a work of art in that it can be interpreted in depth despite its simplicity, it presents not the shallowness often coupled to the superficial fluff of improved graphics at the time. To this day I do not really always care about how pretty a game can be; a lot of people are rediscovering this fact in themselves, the critical acclaim and the sales of Octopath Traveler attest to that.

As the final book of Season 3, Katamari Damacy takes an approach more similar to the books of Season 4. It focused a lot on the creator’s journey up to and beyond the release of the game. I felt a great parallel between it and Shovel Knight which releases with it in a few days. The author did a solid overview of certain culture particularities related to the Japanese which quite frankly would have gone way over our western heads had he not written about them. Those part are some of the most interesting, more creators should, with their cultures, be this unapologetic about their unique aspects.

**Shovel Knight

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This book takes a very investigative approach to its subject. It is very more in line with my thoughts on what creator access should be, and very special in that it is as much the story of WayForward (WF) as a company as it is about the IP itself. Many publishers have had their story told and retold in a way that we could actually recite them verbatim. Examples of this are Id Software, Nintendo, Square-Enix. The story of WF relates as they represent in a way the dreams of many of us gamers who dreamt of being creators, and at the same time, they have lived through some of the hard times that we can easily imagine happens when one takes the route of independent development. It is not difficult to understand that many such teams of developers never survived beyond a game or two. Following their journey towards themselves as a group of friends and colleagues become something bigger, then towards their dream which culminated in one awesome modern NES game, was a blast. Theirs was a true journey, with many downs but their ups reached some interesting peaks to balance everything out. I would not mean to spoil anything from the narrative, nevertheless, I must that it was amazingly serendipitous that so many of their favourite creators from the golden era of the NES/SNES could meet with them, even collaborate in Shovel Knight!

Both of these books achieve their goal and the research/interviews were well done for me. Naturally, I do find myself partial to any story of an indie studio, whether of success or failure. If Katamari Damacy had focused more on the big publisher (Namco) instead of the true creator hidden behind this corporate juggernaut, I would not have like it as much. I enjoyed both books, and I recommend both, especially Shovel Knight simply for the fascinating tale of Wayforward Studios. Both Boss Fight Books come out in a couple of days. They can be easily found on Amazon: Katamari Damacy (Boss Fight Books Book 17) and Shovel Knight (Boss Fight Books) or at Boss Fight Books.

Elaborated

Feb 11 2006, 4:44 PM


I’ve played Xmen legends during the past two months. Eventually, I finished it. Last week I started on Xmen legends II. Today I’ve already gotten to the final act, did the game get easier from the first to the second opus? Or am I just playing far too much? Or both?

And here is a subject all on its own: med student, last year, how will I play once I start internship? Who will be crazy enough to take the chance and start a family with a madman of gaming such as I? And the questions could go on and on. Oh well, I’ll never change and mostly because I don’t want to. End of discussion. I do hope to have heirs to carry my love of games. Maktoub”

Today’s one-word prompt gave me the idea to find some of my old writings, share them for those who’ve never seen them and Elaborate some ideas within, answer some questions I had left hanging.

X-men Legends was a good game, in my opinion. Fortunately I had written this little bit about it, otherwise, I would certainly not have even remembered it existed on my own. We have all seen many movies, read quite a few books and maybe even played hundreds of games (video, board, card, etc.). But those that really mark us we cannot really forget, for whatever reason that may be. If I would name one of each that marked me:

  • Book: Summer of Night, it’s an oldish one, I read it very young, my first of the Horror genre and it scared me immensely. I read it again about a year ago, I still like the book and I can absolutely see how it could have impacted me the way it did. I was in a school with a building as old as time, reminding me too much of the school the kids go to in the novel
  • Board game: Monopoly Classic Game. A silly but simple reason why. I was young, shopping for something new on Christmas, and the store owner’s daughter was or seemed rather “hot”. In retrospect, I cannot remember what feature qualified her as such to my young eyes, nevertheless, whenever I think of Christmas, I remember Monopoly and I remember her (Isabelle, gleaned from eavesdropping while looking around the shop).
  • Card game: Magic The Gathering. This was the first one I ever saw, tried and played. Back then, I felt that simply getting a hang of the rules was Magic in itself!
  • Video game: Final Fantasy VI. The original North American version, erroneously dubbed Final Fantasy 3 (while in truth it was the 6th game in the series), is the one that I borrowed from a friend one day on the schoolyard. I had little idea of what was in store, but I liked the name. It reminded me that ultra hard NES game I had once tried at another friend’s house. It became my favorite game for a very long time. As many can remember, the story was epic in its main path, but the side activities and the hidden quests related to each character truly open up the story. Both the lore and character development shine with personality, uniqueness. To this day, I still load up at least once a week some track from the Distant Worlds orchestral interpretations. My favorite music from FF6 is the Opera di Maria that the game’s character Celes Chere played in (as Maria)  🙂
  • Movie: if there is one movie that I could name despite having seen it so long ago, it’s Goonies! I rewatched just once about a decade or so ago and I was blown by how well I remembered e-ve-ry single scene as if I’d seen it just the day before. Yes, it’s rather old for some of you, it remains a timeless classic for me which can almost be said for the majority of Spielberg movies…

As for the last question….well, I’ve learned to tone down the intensity of the gaming somewhat. Or rather, I watered it down. By inserting short bursts of play in down times, whenever the significant other is busy, kid sleeping or busy, lunch breaks etc. I managed to still game (I’ve logged almost 200 hrs into Xenoblade Chronicles 2 this year!) while seeming not to. If everyone gets their quality time, who can complain really? As a consequence, it’s been almost 2 months since I last turned the PS4 on. My time has been mostly spent on portable gaming (3DS and the epically awesome Switch, my Vita disappeared more than a year ago….stolen? Unknown). There’s always a way to balance everything to some measure. It can just take patience to find it…

Art fusion at its current best

Child of Light is a work of arts. Yes, plural. An interesting mixture of many forms: poetry, music, photography, image art, all wrapped up in a wonderful bundle of simple yet compelling gameplay mechanics that “speak” to all the rest.

Most of the dialog is in rhyme and as far as I could discern, having just started playing, it is mostly an even number rhyme. An even number line in a paragraph rhymes with the even number line above and/or below it.
The art engine Ubisoft uses is amazing! The backgrounds are lush and lose none of the finesse and color quality of a hand-drawn painting. The characters and moving elements present a wonderful cell-shady particularity. Movement is smooth, the lighting effects are adequate. In short, for I could write a book about how incredible an effect this games visuals has on me, the UbiArt framework is fucking A. It looked good in Rayman, here…. it SHINES!

What more can I say? GO EXPERIENCE IT!
Child of Light is an instant classic that you have to be completely bonkers not to love. April 30th, 2014 will remain a highlight of my gaming life.

End of migration

And so ends my migration of the posts previously on 1up. Like I said in the final post, I installed Kingdoms of Amalur after Skyrim. I had high hopes for it.

It turned out to be a good game. It was flashy, third-person, had a lot of cool moves with different weapons. The only sin it made for me was that it came after Skyrim. If I had played it first, I would have had a blast. The lore is deep, and the world big, although not feeling as free roaming as Skryim. All in all, I did not feel the magic that Bethesda put in their Elder Scrolls games. Nevertheless, maybe now that quite a while has passed since last I’ve launched the game if I go back to Amalur maybe I’ll have forgotten enough of Tamriel to really enjoy it this time around.

Final 1up migration post :"Skyrim….The End???"

Feb 21st 2012, 3:15PM

Yesterday I grabbed my courage and decided to bring the fight to Alduin. After weeks of postponing, it was both exhilarating and scary. I have finished all the major quest lines save for the Companions’, and really, apart from a few individualized side-quests, it feels like there is nothing much left for me than the never-ending “Radiant” quests.

While finishing the main story, I committed two major errors. The first: I went in there with too high a level (65), according to what I read somewhere 35 is the best max limit otherwise it will feel anti-climactic; Second error: I was armed with Merhunes’ Razor! Yes, and unluckily, the darn thing activated during the final fight……after 2 hits….. There I was facing the World-Eater himself in epic battle and the Razor activates on the SECOND hit!!!!!!!!! What’s worse than the hardest last boss? Well, obviously, it’s the easiest.

Now that I’m done, I will end the Companions’ story and beyond that…..there are tons of achievements to get, items to hunt for and dungeons to clear. Along the way, I am bound to find some interesting sidequest to keep me busy. In the meantime, I have installed Kingdoms of Amalur, I just hope all the hype is worth it though I doubt it can ever replace Skyrim in my heart.”

1up migration post XV: "Dragon slaying too easy? Barbas the indestructible dog!!!"

December 15th, 2011, 2:53 PM

Using followers is the best way to make the Dragonborn’s work easy, too easy even. A combination of Lydia, a conjured Atronach, and Barbas (Clavicus Vile’s indestructible dog companion) is the spoon full of sugar to make the dragon pill go down. Barbas is, of course, imperative to this equation. He is a royal pain in the *** when it comes to everything else, pushing you off ledges when trying to sneak around, making a constant racket barking all the time. But in front of a crazy ol’ Blood Dragon, he is UNSTOPPABLE. That does not simply mean that he deals damage, it means that most of all that he keeps the adversary occupied while you hack away from the rear, cast some major spells (which may kill a follower like Lydia but not good old Barbas!), and shout out as hell in between recharges. People if you want to make your lives easier, don’t finish Clavicus Vile’s quest. Barbas may be extremely annoying, but he has his uses.

The only thing to truly consider is that, the easier it gets for you, the slower your character progresses, due to the judicious “use it or lose it” choice of design made by Bethesda. The ultimate reward is still the same though: the bones, the scales, and the best the soul!
Any adequately hardcore Skyrim Dragonborn probably has heard or about Barbas and the interesting idea of holding off finishing his quest in order to keep him as an extra free follower. So the choice is actually all yours; he may make caves too easy at times, allows the use of incredibly destructive scrolls on enemies, but he also makes dragon slaying a little less much of a headache.”