I don’t mean to keep bringing up games I’ve discussed in blogs past, but I feel it’s good to talk about nostalgia.
When I was in college, I didn’t have a lot of time to play games, but when I did, they were usually older titles. Either games I’d played before, or games I was trying to catch up on. I believe playing older games is important, but really this situation was because I didn’t own a lot of then-current consoles. Only the 3DS and Wii U – and it felt like I was missing a lot of new experiences. My knowledge of gaming became theoretical – from reading and watching videos, instead of through playing games myself.
Yet, I was getting into series’ that were previously hard to approach (like Fire Emblem and the Souls series) and found the opportunities to play thorough games, like Xenoblade Chronicles, I had wanted to play for years. It was a backlog-cleaning, budget-leveling, and downtime-killing way to have fun and play some games.
But now, I’m out of college, trying to figure my life out, and I’m trying to get back into gaming in a huge way. I’ve got a PS4 Pro, with a Switch on the way. I want to play all the experiences I’ve missed, catch up on current gaming trends, and look forward to the future. I don’t mind going back to the past still, but if I want to write about games, I have to keep up. Otherwise, I become a relic.
So part of me feels guilty when, after finishing Nier, I rolled right into another playthrough of Mega Man Legends. It’d been about six years since I’d played it, but with all this new tech, I still decided to go back? Why?
I can tell you why I went back to Legends. There’s a memory I associate with it. A prime bit of nostalgia, from when I was a kid and didn’t have as many responsibilities and so forth. It’s summer. Late afternoon. A storm raging on and off all day. My dad, off at work. My mom, asleep in a chair. I’m wedged in a corner, in front of my Playstation, plugging away through Mega Man Legends. The atmospheric ambiance that plays when dungeon crawling is soothing for me, and creates a certain mood. Mostly of calm, gaming bliss. But, there’s a part of it that’s fearful – especially if I find myself underpowered with a lot of enemies. The only sounds that really come through are Mega Man’s buster and the explosions it creates. Between that and the ambiance, I find myself loving the game, but isolated by it. The entire environment I’m in is isolated.
This – a mix of that feeling you’re in-sync with a game’s mechanics and that isolation – it’s thrilling. Memorable. A feeling that’s unique to this game.
But, I still feel guilty. Reliving this feeling again, playing through the story again, and finding that the game (in my opinion) still holds up, is great. It makes me happy.
But I have all this shiny new technology. I want to feel relevant.
This is the dilemma essentially. The balance of wanting to revisit fun times and relive them again, and the yearning to try new things that could create experiences of their own. It’s messy, but it’s something I believe a lot of gamers deal with. I think many of us have different reasons for why we may swing one way or the other, favoring nostalgia, or investing all-in on newness.
For me, at least, I believe I’m scared of the change – five or so years ago, the gaming landscape looked very different. You could still reasonably expect that most physical games you bought wouldn’t need to install to your system before you could play. You’d expect that the best of the downloadable indie titles would release widely at retail. Multiplayer and single player modes still had wide distinctions. Now, some games have emergent storytelling, where multiplayer matches turn into thrilling tales you tell other people or share online. Now, companies are relying more and more on digital services, even for their physical-based content. Now, many Switch games require huge downloads (sometimes entire games like in the Resident Evil Revelations Collection) to have them play as they should.
I’m not saying these are bad trends, I’m saying that they’re new and different. And, beyond the money it takes to keep invested in games, and the hoops we need to jump through sometimes to stay in-the-know, I think that’s why I took so long to dig into the meat of this generation’s consoles, and why I continue to look back to Mega Man Legends when I have now invested in all this new technology. It’s comforting. It puts off the inevitable.
However, now, thinking about this, I also consider that I’m overthinking everything and being way more dramatic than necessary. It could just be that I wanted to play Mega Man Legends again. There’s nothing really wrong with that. I have new systems and experiences to get to and I’ll get to them when I get to them. After all, gaming is about having fun, right? About playing games you like, and, when writing, to stay current about everything that’s going on, as much as you can.
There’s no need to feel guilty playing an old game, is there?
I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but maybe I’m placating myself. But then, perhaps I’m being overly dramatic. But then, I’m ignoring the huge investment I’ve just made. However, I shouldn’t minimize what I’m feeling… It’s a tough balance to keep. Visit the past, experience the Mega Man Legends nostalgia. Stay in the present, start something new. Switch off. I could do that. I can do that. At least, I hope so.