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Back To The Future: Nostalgia and Gaming Part I

On 05/20/2013 at 05:03 PM by Justin Matkowski

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Back To The Future with FZero

Nostalgia in an overwhelmingly powerful emotion. Many would even go so far as to liken it to a drug which clouds our perception to the truth. The concept of nostalgia has been on my mind since recently going to see The Great Gatsby, where a central theme is Jay Gatsby’s own longing to recapture the happiest time of his life and despite his abounding optimism, that dream escapes him. To reference a beloved moment from Mad Men, Don Draper informs us that nostalgia’s original Greek translation means “the pain from an old wound”, and goes on to describe it as “a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone."

Like many of you here at Pixlbit, I am old enough to remember the 8-bit and 16-bit generations of gaming. I cherish those classic titles, and the profound moments that go along with them; attaining the master sword in a mist-shrouded forest, landing for the first time on a (seemingly) abandoned planet Zebes, and conquering a castle only to find out that our princess is located in another. I find myself returning to those classics time and time again, and the experience never wains in its enjoyment. Unlike certain types of music or movies, when I rediscover a much beloved game from yesteryear, often it completely holds up and is just as good (if not better) than I remember it to be. Surely then, this means something must be at work beyond the simple explanation that nostalgia is distorting the facts.

This leads to the question that has been quite a hot button in the industry as of late: are the games of the 8 and 16-bit generations truly superior to what AAA gaming has to offer today? What sets gaming apart from other forms of entertainment is that is has a decisive element of objectivity to it: interactivity. Dissecting a video game from the standpoint of its mechanics certainly allows for plenty of opinion-articulation and interpretation, but it also gives us the opportunity to discuss it from a mathematical perspective of sorts - how a gaming experience succeeds (or fails) at the fundamental elements of interactivity of design. 

Gamers that celebrate the modern age of gaming are quick to counter pro-retro stances with "Those classic games aren't going away, and today we have a much broader spectrum of gaming experiences to enjoy. Don't become the angry old guy on a 'these kids today...' spiel." Make no mistake, some of my favorite titles ever have come from this past generation, and I constantly strive to grow in my personal tastes and as an individual. I want to address this question in a new, more productive way, and I think the community here at Pixlbit is the perfect place to explore this topic. 

SO this is intended to be an ongoing series of blogs, begging to get to the meat of the conversation: is retro gaming, in in fact, better gaming? What say you Pixlbit members - is retro-gaming truly superior, and if so why do you feel that way? Sound off in the comments below, or feel free to create your own post/podcast and kindly link it to this one.

As always, thanks for reading!

- Justin




05/20/2013 at 06:58 PM

Of course retro gaming is superior in every single way! Just kidding. For me it is, but I know I'm in the minority. I have pretty much given up on modern gaming, and have no interest in these next gen consoles that are coming out. Sometimes I worry about the industry. Games are getting far more costly to make. Look at Tomb Raider. It sold over 3.5 million copies and still was considered a "failure". How is that a failure?! Undecided

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

05/20/2013 at 07:25 PM

I'm with you Aaron! I am much more of a retro gamer than a modern one, and I think there are more of us than you might think. The thing is, I would love to be wildly enthusiastic about the coming announcements for the next-gen, but I'm not holding my breath for something to really "wow" me. 

And I hear you about the economic side of the industry, brother. That bubble is going to burst eventually, it just isn't sustainable; for one thing publishers spending more on marketing than summer movie blockbusters has me scratching my head - the gaming industry shouldn't be taking cues from Hollywood, that's for damn sure!


05/20/2013 at 07:43 PM

By the way Justin, I'm glad you are back! I'm sorry if my comment was all gloom and doom. I do enjoy modern gaming somewhat, it's just that those games will never mean as much to me as the ones that I grew up with. Maybe it's nostaligia? I guess that's what these blogs will help me figure out.  Oh, and I like how you used that image of the Blue Falcon. I just got done playing F-Zero lol. 

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

05/20/2013 at 08:46 PM

Glad to be back my friend! Shit hit the fan with a family situation, and I just had to get out of town for awhile to gather myself.

It wasn't doom and gloom at all! That's what this blog series is all about, I want it to be completely open to interpretation. I'm going to be reading your review Aaron! I thought you'd like F-Zero reference Cool

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