Game Nostalgia and You

If you play quite a lot of games like I tend to, occasionally you start to reminisce the olden times, when sequels were the bee’s knees, stories actually ended without an annoying cliffhanger that would keep milking the fan-base for money, and just think that back then, stuff was just plain fun.

Back then I was also younger, but some games keep being fresh no matter when you play them. Any Mario game you might play now is instantly recognizable and perfectly playable, you get into a game like Warcraft 3 and send troops into battle like it’s second nature, you turn on Heroes of Might and Magic 3 and know that harpies are some of the most annoying troops ever. To link this article to one I wrote a while ago – even turning on Doom, though nauseating, I get reminded of all the cheatcodes I used to spam back then.

Then I get back in present time and play a game like Space Marine – refreshingly familiar and fun, but it does seem like it’s missing something. Even if it’s mostly a complete game, it seems to be missing some of the elements you would find in the classic games we know and love. Humor tends to be rarefied and confined to the Orks – which quickly dry out. Easter Eggs, while present, seem to be extremely few and far in-between, not giving the game much personality beyond the great deal you get from the inherent universe. The game is repetitive.

I’m not saying that these elements would not appear in the games of old, but nostalgia seems to blur those things out. You think of Alien Breed as the game in which you upgraded your weapons with money, you run out of keys and you run like hell once you blow up the reactor – there is no urgency in Space Marine, even an artificial urgency sparked by a timer and a red overlay as an annoying alarm blares in your ears.

But then you look at Alien Breed closer: the concept of the game is similar to that of Space Marine – repetitive enemies that have different functions depending on how they look, going from point A to point B, though in a less linear style, then going from point B to point A again.

One of these games is instantly classic, and I don’t know why Space Marine falls behind in that regard. I would say that the combat in Space Marine is leaps and bounds above Alien Breed from the satisfaction standpoint. And yet we lose interest.

Nostalgia takes us back and provides a nice platform from which to be launched for budding game designers. Once we get back in game, though, we play for a bit and move on, in some cases actually spoiling the nostalgic experience entirely.

The question I can’t get myself to answer, though, is if this nostalgia I talk about is actually good. The thing about this feeling you get when reminiscing playing the games way back when is more subjective than anything, and basing your game on it runs the risk of destroying the game by ruining the nostalgia in the player – or make him relive it more intense than before.

Risk – reward is another classic gaming concept, mind you.


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