Why Does Nostalgia Work?

I bet many smarter, better writers have tackled this but as I grind out level after level in Project 1999 I am desperately trying to find the answer of how in the hell I am having so much fun. Or even am I?

This is how I am spending my days.

I spent years there already, and this version has a shelf life – yet thousands play it daily. I read about Bhagpuss’ adventures in SWTOR and remind myself I stopped at the Hutt Cartel expansion – so much there to explore and experience.

The new expansion for MTGA, the War of the Spark, is fun. Kinda.

I sadface when thinking of Anthem, but recognize that eventually that’s coming back too. OR should. Or might. I have a whole library of games just sitting there, begging for attention, yet I log in and grind out percentages of percentages of levels to creep along. I stayed in one, single camp for two weeks.

It doesn’t make sense, especially since as a gamer and blogger I have spent what seems like an eternity searching for the new. The more new. The fun. The more fun. The different.

The same.

And This.

Then it kind of hit me.

It’s precisely that it stays the same is the attraction. I can leave for years, and come back, and I won’t be any further behind (or ahead). Some of us might long for the simpler days of the teen years in cottage country, the small apartment in the city with the fun job that didn’t pay much, but you had the best time of your life with your girlfriend at the time. You thought she was the one. She wasn’t. If only time could freeze.

It can’t. Wait, it can, right?

In gaming terms, anyway. I’m very much depressing myself with these specific thoughts.

Am I having fun, or living a life I can’t leave behind?

8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I find nostalgia is more tha the game but the entire memory of that time period. For most of us it was a simpler time, and one of continual exploration and newness. Way less drama unless we made it up ourselves.

    Quite the contrast to today.

    1. I think that is mostly true, but I do remember all to well the huge drama when our guild wasn’t progressing enough, and our top players kept leaving (and long time friends) to join a rival guild who was progressing, thereby ensuring we couldn’t recruit to progress.

      We were a family based guild, so that was on us, but man, the friendships that were ruined!

  2. I dunno. For me, nostalgia would be very much about the game, rather than my memories of the time period, beyond the fact that I had way more hours to sink into one game at a time. It’s more about the “purity” of the game for me, the enclosed intent design when game companies actually finish a game and leave it as one complete package in a box, as opposed to being concerned with multiplayer, social networks, games as service, microtransactions and basically making a never-ending always connected game.

    I have nostalgia for DOS games, or games that did fantastic stuff given the technical limitations of their time to produce great esperiences, or classics like Monkey Island or Grim Fandango with complete stories that I played and enjoyed and am keen to revisit those stories I remember.

    Weirdly enough, plenty of other people are having massive nostalgia kicks revisiting City of Heroes, which seems more about revisiting the idea of the social networks and community built at the time of playing said game. So I guess one can feel nostalgia for different things, be it a thing, person, experience/feeling or the time period itself.

    1. Something about which your first was, right? Are the COH lovers the folks who started there, or just the people that made it their home?

  3. Sometimes it is fun to revisit an old neighborhood. You might not want to leave there today, but reliving some of the good memories is pleasant. There’s also comfort in the familiar. We don’t always want to be challenged by something new, put in the time and energy to get to know a new thing. It’s nice just to slip into comfortable clothes and just hang out, relaxing, and doing things with a known rhythm.

  4. I was four paragraphs into a comment when I realized I probably should make it into a post of my own. I’ll try and get that done today or tomorrow. The tl:dr is “This is EverQuest we’re talking about”. There’s nostalgia and then there’s EQ.

    There’s a reason we used to call this game EverCrack.

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