Video games and nostalgia

(Before we start, does the featured image of this post, of a Playstation, the very first one, create nostalgia for any of you? Just curious…)

Video games are really recent. And I mean, really, REALLY recent. Right now, as of 2017, at the moment I am writing this, more and more generations of people are starting to get video game nostalgia. Even half a century ago, that would not have been possible!

In general nostalgia is good. It brings back old memories (usually good, eheh), it makes you think of the good old days. Ask anybody who is a gamer, and they will (usually) all tell you a list of games, whether big or small, which they played as kids, and they will (usually) tell you that they have great nostalgia for those games, and they wish that they could wipe their own memories of playing those games and play them fresh again.

Resident-Evil.jpgWhile I don’t personally have nostalgia for that version of Resident Evil, but I am sure that those who do wouln’t say no to the idea of starting all over again but with a wiped memory, like it’s the first time they play.

But why is there such great nostalgia for video games? What makes them graved into people’s memories, why are they so fond of them?

First of all, a question that might need to be answered is “what is nostalgia in the first place?”. According to an article that I read (which seems to be itself backed up by scientific reports, so… I guess it’s reliable, eheh), it is defined as yearning for an idealized past: the vision that you have of the past though tends to be distorted, biased, in the sense that it is perceived as perfect times, which is better than how reality was. Importantly though, one important point is that nostalgia isn’t just attached to specific memories. Instead, nostalgia manifests itself through the emotions that this memory evokes, rather than the memory in itself. And not just any emotions, since your brain filters out the negative ones, and keeps the positive ones. That is why nostalgia feels good, and why it makes you want to go back to that period of time you are being nostalgic about, since you feel ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY positive emotions in regards to that past (do you still follow me? Ok? Good).

Now, let’s apply that to nostalgia for video games. And true is that research I did! After all, if you think about it, what emotions do you feel about those good old games? About the times you first played them? Most likely, your answer should include positive emotions, and as you think about it, you might be wishing that you could just go back. You’re probably thinking that if you had a time machine, you would rewind time, just so that you could live that pseudo-perfect past (“pseudo” because remember, it’s only a bias which is created by the feeling of nostalgia – though admittedly, you do tend to have much less problems in childhood than in adulthood, usually. And nostalgia doesn’t include just childhood too, eheh).

Think about the video games that you perhaps have played in your childhood and have never played again. Once again, chances are you are thinking of positive emotions. But the thing is, try to go and play that game NOW, if it is of course possible in the first place. While your “nostalgia goggles” will try and convince you that you are having the time of your life, there’s a high probability that you will find that the game isn’t as good as you thought. Once again, in your memories, you only had positive memories associated with that game so you consequently thought that THAT specific game just had to be perfect. But it isn’t, just like the past that you are nostalgic about in general.

66873-The_Legend_Of_Zelda_Ocarina_Of_Time_Masterquest_USA_NGC-Jurai-2.jpgThis game STILL remains awesome after all this time (always), but as I replayed it, I started to see its flaws, to see that in the end, it isn’t a perfect game. Because nothing is perfect. This proves how our vision of us playing that game in the past is biased.

But the matter is – those games had a POSITIVE impact on you. Something which is pretty specific about video games rather than let’s say films and the nostalgia associated to them is that we tend to play video games for a long, long time. And thus, those positive emotions have all that time to build up. It makes those video games get printed into our memories, into our very beings. It is also such an interactive medium, such that every action that you take within a game impacts you in some way, since it you who has taken that decision (more on decision making here), which made you feel like the protagonist of the story, which is damn awesome when you are a kid – and it still is when you grow up… Perhaps it is a piece of our childhood that remains with us, even as years pass on? I hope it is the case, because after all, being a kid is damn awesome, and leaving absolutely everything behind us would be a waste.

We shouldn’t linger in the past for too long, but having a little peek at times can be refreshing. After all, why say no to the positive emotions those good “old” video games bring to us? At the hardest moments in our lives, those kind of emotions can be what drives us to move forward. It isn’t just about looking back and having nostalgia for the past. It is also about creating nostalgia for the future – I already have nostalgia for when I got The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but that was only 5 months ago! Like what, nostalgia isn’t reserved for childhood only. If you are a gamer, chances are that any video game you spend a lot of time in WILL create nostalgia for the future. When we are going to be older people, we definitely want to have memories about our past, to look back and see how well we lived. Of course nostalgia concerns much, much more than just video games.

As that article suggests, nostalgia actually can help fighting issues such as depression. It can indeed literally help you to move forward, to help in not getting conquered by it. As a gamer, much of my nostalgia is video game related. And by my own experience, I definitely can tell that those sneak peeks into the past can provide a unique type of joy, one which makes you want to stand up and take steps forward! Thank you for that, video games of my childhood! 🙂

But then… What about you?


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