Why Nostalgia Matters

In whatever form of media people choose to consume, now more than ever, there is an intentional use of nostalgia. On the radio, its hearing old songs on different stations that put you back into a specific moment. Or, it’s hearing a voice that is soothing to your ears as you drive along, remembering who may have been sitting in the passenger seat listening to the same station. On television, it comes in the form of something like Nick @ Nite when I get to watch All That, Rocko’s Modern Life, and all the like.

There’s a reason why the less technologically advanced forms of media still exist: nostalgia. When you put all the technology we utilize daily into the bigger picture, the ones we grew up with still are the ones most important and close to us. In video games, there’s a reason there is a massive market for re-mastered games, like Kingdom of Hearts, Crash Bandicoot, and The Last of Us, and that is, you guessed it, nostalgia. In video games, nostalgia can matter on multiple levels. Not only can we remember the games we loved as kids, but it can allow us to figure out how the narrative structure works, how to get to the end of the narrative, and, in general be better at the game. When we play games several years later, we have a certain maturation that we have developed, which gives us an entirely new outlook on the game, but in playing it, we are transported back into a older reality.

Nostalgia matters as a cultural unifier that allows us to remember the good, the beautiful, and the bad. It’s what sits us around the TV as family at dinner, and what is at the core of every relationship, past and present. Things will always develop, but we are always brought back by our own humanness.

 

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4 comments

  1. entschuldigung

    This is great! This also reminds me of another post on VG3 that talks about timeless games. I think nostalgia can work in a similar way where we like characters in games that we could relate to at some level and that we can develop kinship over.

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  2. JTruck

    I definitely agree abut the power of nostalgia, I was ecstatic when the older Halo games got remastered, or Burnout Paradise. I think it’s interesting how nostalgia can backfire as well. For instance, EA tried to restart the Star Wars Battlefront series, personally one of the favorites from my childhood. However, when it didn’t live up to the hype and people didn’t love the new games as much or more than the old ones it really tainted their reputation.

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  3. nam000

    While I think that nostalgia is an extremely effective and evocative media tool, I also think it is lazy. Instead of encouraging innovative storytelling, nostalgic media reverts back to tried-and-true formula. Given that its reputation will precede itself, remakes & remasters are easy to sell to the public, no matter how bad it might prove to be.

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  4. quinn797

    I believe the use of nostalgia is productive rather than futile because it is capable of generating generations of great works. We have to be aware of the differences between a nostalgic state and a simple repetitive pattern without innovation. I am not particularly familiar with nostalgic games but I believe it is always productive to look back in history with a critical eye and try to create something new out of a certain historical context. If the producers are just appropriating the title and making sequels, I really would not consider those sequels “nostalgic” in any particular way, rather, I’d say they are profiting off the term “nostalgia”. Any attempt to make an exact copy of something in the past is destructive of the nostalgic memory since nostalgia is in itself irretrievable.

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