A long, rambling rant about nostalgia.

The black eye, the most nostalgic of childhood injuries.
In this world of HD, pixel shaders, and the uncanny valley, we tend to get caught up in the latest technology in video games without reminiscing about the games of yesteryear and their significance.  We're always looking for the next big thing and we forget about older games pretty quickly... Lies took this topic on, at least in the relatively short-term.  I, however, will dive into the long-term, particularly older games from the PS1/N64 generation and earlier.

I should start with the most forgotten era of gaming... 1972-1983 BC, or "Before the Crash."  Pong around here is usually mentioned jokingly when referring to the oldest of old games and unless you're over 40 or your parents still have a working Pong machine, chances are you've never played the real deal.  Well, I never played the real thing, but Pong gets a lot of respect in my book as being the first mainstream game and revolutionized the entertainment medium.  Hell, even Barack Obama has had some Pong experience.  Most around these parts also neglect the impact the Atari 2600, Intellivision, and Colecovision has on gaming as well.  Yes, some events in this period were bleek, but for every E.T., there was a Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, and Pitfall!  I had some early memories of playing Intellivision and the Atari 2600 and that got me interested in games... although the NES sealed the deal for me.  If you don't believe me, just look at every list of greatest games by users and gaming publications.  Everybody has done a top 100 list by now, but the pre-crash era is largely forgotten in favor of more recent games.  You might occasionally see Pac-Man or Pong if Giant Bomb decided to cause some controversy and create a top 100 list, but if you check out these very forums at the greatest games among the community, you see a dramatic shift towards the post-crash era... with more emphasis on last gen and current gen games.

For the record, I consider the NES era to be the greatest time to be a gamer, but that's just me.

The ultimate video game blast from the past.
My time here at the Giant Bomb forums have taught me that the nostalgia topic can get a bit heated and usually becomes a fight between past vs. present... and both sides have valid points.  The ones who advocate today's technology (I'll call them tech whores), they are correct about how we shouldn't compare today's games to games from 10 or 20 years ago using current standards.  For example, some believe The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or A Link to the Past will always be the greatest Zelda of ever, but Twilight Princess is the most technically advanced game in the series and is truly better than Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past in almost every way... and they would not stand up at all to many of the current games if released today or even 5 years ago.  And if not for the advancement of technology and innovation, we wouldn't have games with the realism of Crysis or the motion controls of Metroid Prime 3.  Face it, we crave these types of things and if we didn't, Gears of War would be a 2D side-scroller.  There is nothing wrong with pushing hyper-realism, but just remember how you got there.

However, the people who cling to the classics (nostalgia whores) also have a good case.  The advanced tech and the complexity of current generation consoles can have a negative effect on the fun factor for many people and we shouldn't forget what we used to play and the excitement of playing something from your youth.  Almost every major title is too complex for some retro purists and look elsewhere for their gaming fix.  To go back to the Zelda example, Ocarina of Time in 1998 was universally hailed as a masterpiece and arguably the best game in the history of gaming, but although Twilight Princess was a prettier, deeper Zelda, it is often considered inferior to Ocarina of Time for a number of reasons.  How can a game be better, yet worse?  It all comes down to the time period and the major improvements in graphics, AI, and physics that has taken place in the 8 years between the two.  I was 17 when Ocarina of Time came out and loved every minute of it... even the Water Temple.  And a few months ago, I played through the entire game for probably the 8th or 9th time in my life and it might look primitive compared to Twilight Princess, but it's as fun as ever.

Snake in one of his earlier moments.
So what causes this disconnect between the old and new?  Time has a funny way of causing divisions among people and the industry has been around long enough for there to be divisions.  It's a fact in almost every medium... you tend to prefer music you listened to during your high school or college years and sometimes ignore the older stuff and the newer stuff.  The same goes for games and unfortunately for many years, getting a hold of older games was difficult... there was no Virtual Console 10 years ago and eBay wasn't as mainstream back then.  Many hardcore gamers are in that 18-24 demographic and the majority of these gamers probably started on a PS1 or N64 and because the earlier consoles had faded into obscurity in stores and various publications, a good chunk of them had never played Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog... their first gaming experience could've been Metal Gear Solid or Goldeneye 007.  And some of our younger gamers (14 and under) probably skipped over to the previous generation and proclaim Halo or Grand Theft Auto III the greatest games ever because that's all they know and dismiss older games because they're "ugly", particularly early 3D games since they tend to age a bit more than 2D games in general... in my opinion.

This was once technically impressive... imagine that.
Now there are some "older" gamers like myself (meaning older than 24) that do remember the good old days of the NES, SNES, and the Genesis consoles.  8-bit gaming culture has been deluded to the occasional catchy t-shirt and hoodie to some, but to people like me and the Giant Bomb staff (I'm assuming), that particular era is still special because it reminds us of a simpler time of side-scrollers, 2D fighters, and split-screen multiplayer.  There was no such thing as online gaming so your friends would gather around in the living room and just chill out and pass around the controller.  We did care about how the game looked, but we didn't nitpick about every sprite and pixel... we just had fun kicking each other's asses in Mortal Kombat.  Unfortunately, visuals are trumping gameplay in some circles and online multiplayer has severely hurt local multiplayer.  Hardcore gamers today are pretty spoiled, but the 30-somethings are typically intimidated by most of these realistic shooters so they either "grow out" of gaming, go casual, or revert back to the past.

So where does a gamer with a taste for nostalgia go to?  Well, they either they go to handheld games which are more friendly to the classic gamer or they dust off the old NES or Genesis for satisfaction.  Others might also check out the downloadable goodies via XBLA, PSN, or WiiWare.  Games like Bionic Commando Rearmed, Braid, and World of Goo are brilliant examples of games that could have been made in an earlier time... with a graphical downgrade of course.  However, the most friendly game for the retro gamer in recent memory has to be Mega Man 9, which has gotten a lot of cheers, but also some jeers.  If you are under the age of 18, chances are you never even thought about buying it because of its pixelated look (8-bit) or simple gameplay (run and shoot.)  The graphics whore clique would rather see a hi-def Mega Man in glorious 1080p, but it was not to be.  Nostalgia whores looked at its inner beauty and shed tears of joy.

So, nostalgia.  Is it healthy to look back at the huge catalog of classic games with fondness or is it bad for gamers to live in the past?
3 Comments
4 Comments
Posted by Dalai
The black eye, the most nostalgic of childhood injuries.
In this world of HD, pixel shaders, and the uncanny valley, we tend to get caught up in the latest technology in video games without reminiscing about the games of yesteryear and their significance.  We're always looking for the next big thing and we forget about older games pretty quickly... Lies took this topic on, at least in the relatively short-term.  I, however, will dive into the long-term, particularly older games from the PS1/N64 generation and earlier.

I should start with the most forgotten era of gaming... 1972-1983 BC, or "Before the Crash."  Pong around here is usually mentioned jokingly when referring to the oldest of old games and unless you're over 40 or your parents still have a working Pong machine, chances are you've never played the real deal.  Well, I never played the real thing, but Pong gets a lot of respect in my book as being the first mainstream game and revolutionized the entertainment medium.  Hell, even Barack Obama has had some Pong experience.  Most around these parts also neglect the impact the Atari 2600, Intellivision, and Colecovision has on gaming as well.  Yes, some events in this period were bleek, but for every E.T., there was a Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, and Pitfall!  I had some early memories of playing Intellivision and the Atari 2600 and that got me interested in games... although the NES sealed the deal for me.  If you don't believe me, just look at every list of greatest games by users and gaming publications.  Everybody has done a top 100 list by now, but the pre-crash era is largely forgotten in favor of more recent games.  You might occasionally see Pac-Man or Pong if Giant Bomb decided to cause some controversy and create a top 100 list, but if you check out these very forums at the greatest games among the community, you see a dramatic shift towards the post-crash era... with more emphasis on last gen and current gen games.

For the record, I consider the NES era to be the greatest time to be a gamer, but that's just me.

The ultimate video game blast from the past.
My time here at the Giant Bomb forums have taught me that the nostalgia topic can get a bit heated and usually becomes a fight between past vs. present... and both sides have valid points.  The ones who advocate today's technology (I'll call them tech whores), they are correct about how we shouldn't compare today's games to games from 10 or 20 years ago using current standards.  For example, some believe The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or A Link to the Past will always be the greatest Zelda of ever, but Twilight Princess is the most technically advanced game in the series and is truly better than Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past in almost every way... and they would not stand up at all to many of the current games if released today or even 5 years ago.  And if not for the advancement of technology and innovation, we wouldn't have games with the realism of Crysis or the motion controls of Metroid Prime 3.  Face it, we crave these types of things and if we didn't, Gears of War would be a 2D side-scroller.  There is nothing wrong with pushing hyper-realism, but just remember how you got there.

However, the people who cling to the classics (nostalgia whores) also have a good case.  The advanced tech and the complexity of current generation consoles can have a negative effect on the fun factor for many people and we shouldn't forget what we used to play and the excitement of playing something from your youth.  Almost every major title is too complex for some retro purists and look elsewhere for their gaming fix.  To go back to the Zelda example, Ocarina of Time in 1998 was universally hailed as a masterpiece and arguably the best game in the history of gaming, but although Twilight Princess was a prettier, deeper Zelda, it is often considered inferior to Ocarina of Time for a number of reasons.  How can a game be better, yet worse?  It all comes down to the time period and the major improvements in graphics, AI, and physics that has taken place in the 8 years between the two.  I was 17 when Ocarina of Time came out and loved every minute of it... even the Water Temple.  And a few months ago, I played through the entire game for probably the 8th or 9th time in my life and it might look primitive compared to Twilight Princess, but it's as fun as ever.

Snake in one of his earlier moments.
So what causes this disconnect between the old and new?  Time has a funny way of causing divisions among people and the industry has been around long enough for there to be divisions.  It's a fact in almost every medium... you tend to prefer music you listened to during your high school or college years and sometimes ignore the older stuff and the newer stuff.  The same goes for games and unfortunately for many years, getting a hold of older games was difficult... there was no Virtual Console 10 years ago and eBay wasn't as mainstream back then.  Many hardcore gamers are in that 18-24 demographic and the majority of these gamers probably started on a PS1 or N64 and because the earlier consoles had faded into obscurity in stores and various publications, a good chunk of them had never played Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog... their first gaming experience could've been Metal Gear Solid or Goldeneye 007.  And some of our younger gamers (14 and under) probably skipped over to the previous generation and proclaim Halo or Grand Theft Auto III the greatest games ever because that's all they know and dismiss older games because they're "ugly", particularly early 3D games since they tend to age a bit more than 2D games in general... in my opinion.

This was once technically impressive... imagine that.
Now there are some "older" gamers like myself (meaning older than 24) that do remember the good old days of the NES, SNES, and the Genesis consoles.  8-bit gaming culture has been deluded to the occasional catchy t-shirt and hoodie to some, but to people like me and the Giant Bomb staff (I'm assuming), that particular era is still special because it reminds us of a simpler time of side-scrollers, 2D fighters, and split-screen multiplayer.  There was no such thing as online gaming so your friends would gather around in the living room and just chill out and pass around the controller.  We did care about how the game looked, but we didn't nitpick about every sprite and pixel... we just had fun kicking each other's asses in Mortal Kombat.  Unfortunately, visuals are trumping gameplay in some circles and online multiplayer has severely hurt local multiplayer.  Hardcore gamers today are pretty spoiled, but the 30-somethings are typically intimidated by most of these realistic shooters so they either "grow out" of gaming, go casual, or revert back to the past.

So where does a gamer with a taste for nostalgia go to?  Well, they either they go to handheld games which are more friendly to the classic gamer or they dust off the old NES or Genesis for satisfaction.  Others might also check out the downloadable goodies via XBLA, PSN, or WiiWare.  Games like Bionic Commando Rearmed, Braid, and World of Goo are brilliant examples of games that could have been made in an earlier time... with a graphical downgrade of course.  However, the most friendly game for the retro gamer in recent memory has to be Mega Man 9, which has gotten a lot of cheers, but also some jeers.  If you are under the age of 18, chances are you never even thought about buying it because of its pixelated look (8-bit) or simple gameplay (run and shoot.)  The graphics whore clique would rather see a hi-def Mega Man in glorious 1080p, but it was not to be.  Nostalgia whores looked at its inner beauty and shed tears of joy.

So, nostalgia.  Is it healthy to look back at the huge catalog of classic games with fondness or is it bad for gamers to live in the past?
Posted by StarFoxA

It just dawned on me on how much of a minority I am. I am 14, and I find the 8-bit and 16-bit eras to be the best generations.

Posted by Claude

I'm 43 and I didn't like the action, rpg and fighting games in the 8-bit and 16-bit era. I found them hard to play, so I stayed away, however, now they've dumbed them down enough, so I can enjoy them too. The last ten years have been the greatest of gaming times for me and I'm looking toward the future for more great gaming memories.

Posted by Video_Tycoon

I'm 13, and I grew up on Duck Hunt.  =)  Iove MGS1, and I love duck hunt, and I love Goldeneye 007 and all that.  In fact, only a few games appeal to me now, pretty much CoD4 and random RPGs.