I've been listening to the Trials Fusion theme a fair amount recently. I remember enjoying it at the time of its release, 10 years ago (I don't really want to think about what that means) and I also enjoyed the game, especially the way that my best friend at the time (we're still friends, just not as close) and I would compete for track times and send clips of our most outrageous crashes to one another.
In general I have a lot of nostalgia right now for that early PS4/Xbox One time in gaming. Games like Titanfall, Sunset Overdrive and Resogun were a peek into what the next generation could do, but we were still early enough in the generation that live service games weren't dominant yet. We were still getting a lot of games in the 7th gen mode of 10-15 hour campaigns and the fact that the newer consols had been designed with digital games as a main feature instead of an afterthought meant that indies were getting bigger and better, bolstered by the success of Kickstarter. There was a lot of good stuff going on in gaming, much of which I look back on fondly.
But it was also kind of a bad time. The PS4 infamously took a long time to get going, with 2015's Bloodborne arguably marking the turning point from awkward new system to the powerhouse it would become. The Xbox One floundered out of the gate. The Wii U was a complete wreck. While I can look back on some of those games with fondness and view some of them, like Transistor, as all time favorites, I can also say that 2014 had a lot of games I didn't really like. I think Shadow of Morder is overrated and just okay. Assassin's Creed Unity launched as a complete and total mess. Destiny remains one of the games I played the longest after I was already not having a lot of fun.
I was in my 30s at the time, so it's not like I was a kid, and I was quite miserable, in absolutely horrendous physical shape and hurtling towards an early grave, something I would not begin to address for another 3 or so years. It's not a time I really look back on with a lot of fondness.
And yet I do have nostalgia for some of those games, and maybe for the era as a whole. I think that can be attributed to a few things. The first is that even in bad times there are almost always some positive moments or experiences that shine through. The games of 2014 may not match up to a year like 2017 (or 2023) but they're certainly not all bad. I had good experiences with some of them. Even great experiences with a select few. As time goes by those memories stand out more strongly, and the good times I had in something like Titanfall are clearer than all the mediocre stuff I played and didn't really like.
The second is that each era of gaming is different from the present, at least to some extent. Trials Fusion had a dry, comedic, style that drew on Portal and that has fallen out of fashion in the modern day, where games tend to be a little more sincere. Say what you will about Shadow of Mordor but it was a complete product (there was some DLC but it was side stuff) and a little less bloated than a lot of the most modern stuff. It's easy to think of the best of the time in contrast to our modern slate and have some fondness for the good stuff that existed back then.
The question that really interests me is whether in 10 years I'll be nostalgic for 2024. Will I look back on Suicide Squad and Skull & Bones with the same "were they really that bad?" attitude I have towards AC: Unity (which, to be fair, is in its current state a much better game than either of those will likely ever be.) Will the pretty dry looking last year of the Switch be seen as a time when charming smaller games came out and we all enjoyed Princess Peach Showtime! while waiting for the Switch 2?
There's a sort of comfort in the thought that even the darkest times have bright spots and that inevitably time will sand away the junk and the frustrations and polish the gems that maybe we couldn't appreciate so much at the time. In 10 years the dull slog of Redfall will just be a vague memory but Hi-Fi Rush and Tears of the Kingdom will stand out, with clear high points and moments of fun of joy.
And I like that even in my advanced age I can still feel nostalgic about the good bits of the not so distant past. Trials Fusion is a good game. Better than Skull & Bones, at the very least!