Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Don't Let Nostalgia Go To Your Head

I was thinking about this while I was putting my business ideas together and observing some of the posts on Gamefaqs (the latter is the first big mistake), and it kind of struck me.  A lot of us old-school gamers - myself included - are a bunch of pretentious asses.  Well, that I should be lumped in with them isn't exactly news - at least to me - I'd come to that realisation a long time ago.

The thing that I'm seeing is that a lot of people are not so much enjoying nostalgia as creating a sort of religion from it.  They talk about how x or y title is the one to have, how certain genres and stories are so important then, etc., etc.  And some get upset because you haven't played or don't like certain titles from yesteryear.

Now, the idea that nostalgia can be dangerous is universal to anything, but it applies most to technology.  Many of us have this idea that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  To a certain extent, that's true; I mean, you're not going to upgrade your own toaster with, say, some sort of convection setup.  But in contrast to that, to believe that the old is better than the new is naive; ignorant, even.  Not to say it isn't true, but it becomes less and less so by the day.

Video game design has come a long way, and a lot of ideas used twenty, even thirty years ago may still apply today.  And, in a modern game with modern trappings, it can work.  Just look at New Super Mario Brothers.  But they don't necessarily translate well.  The newer Final Fantasies suffered from excessive random battles until XII - and this is a common trapping of most Japanese RPG's; random encounters in most Western RPG's are either subtler or, unfortunately, completely removed (like in Fallout 3 and New Vegas).  I've already done a rant about RPG's, so I'm not inclined to persue that line in great detail.  Needless to say, some old ideas just don't work anymore.

I think it's a neat idea that Microsoft, Nintendo and SONY are investing in older titles as inexpensive downloadable content, too.  This is a brilliant business venture because older games were only pirated as ROMs because, for the mostpart, they were no longer available.  And it's great to see some of the origins of one of my favourite past times available to younger generations who just didn't have the chance to try it out; Nintendo's done an awesome job with DLC; you can even download old Turbo Grafx-16 games for the Wii.  Yeah, that's how far back I go.  But some stuff really doesn't hold up, and in fact, wasn't that great to begin with.  I was thinking about this when I was reading a review the X-Men arcade game, which on the surface is really cool but underneath is simple, shallow and short (although the latter is a general application to most arcade games).  You basically pick your favourite mutant, and battle through several flat stages.  There's nothing special about how you play the game, either.

And yet I have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game and Turtles in Time.  Mind you, the latter actually has a lot going for it, like special throws.  The former...not so much.

Unfortunately, as a game collector, I've come to realise that many of us collectors do carry an air of prestige when we get to show off our collections; Being that I do feel a surge of pride when I show off my games collection, I know what that's about.  But I don't really live in the past like that.  Sure, I'll play something every once in awhile - heck, I still have to finish Super Metroid - but I would rather enjoy my more recent systems.

That said, I think it's better to honour the old than worship it.  It makes it a lot easier to move into the future.  Plus some of the newer games are far better than the old.  Although I do really wish that Bethesda would put the ability to scale walls back into the Elder Scrolls; that was pretty awesome.

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