What the Crap: Nostalgia

Is it possible to be nostalgic for something that was made before you were even born?

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I’ve been nostalgic about past thoughts on nostalgia. I’ve really thought about it a lot, and how much nostalgia, and retro gaming really impacts everything. Is it possible to play a game and not be nostalgic about some older game, or compare it to its older, more retro cousin?


First off, you can’t be nostalgic about something that existed before your birth (or really, probably age 4). Sure, I love classic rock from the 1960s, but I don’t like it for nostalgic reasons—I like it because I enjoy it. You can’t be pining for the good ol’ days if you weren’t even born yet. Possible exceptions would be time travelers or people who have lived multiple lives. If I had a nickle for every 14-year-old who told me how things were so much better back when Super Mario Bros. 2 came out and things have gone down hill from there, I’d have about 25 cents. And, that’s enough to see a moving picture, buy half a chicken down at the butcher, and still have enough left over to share a malt with your favorite gal!

And for those who are legitimately nostalgic…remember, everything’s different with rose-tinted glasses. I often feel this way about the Elder Scrolls series. Many people get a nostalgia boner over Morrowind, especially me. I’ve played Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim extensively! After a recent stint of Morrowind after a several year hiatus, I’ve told my Skyrim friends about how great Morrowind is with quests, immersion, and depth. Then I realized that some of these qualities are actually…kinda paper thin. I’ve since picked up Skyrim and Oblivion again. The series really hasn’t been dumbed down, but they did modernize the gameplay and game engine. If you asked me which title was my favorite…I’d have a hard time answering you, but I could say that they’re all excellent games and have aged well. Honestly, it’s hard to be objective. What the crap, nostalgia? You are a cruel mistress. You could give someone the entire game series as a clean slate and play them in order, but then they’ll be caught up in the very retro style of the originals—you’d have to rate them objectively and in different categories. Not an easy task.

Second, and this is a big “What the Crap”, we need to set some guideline on what is considered retro. Often, this must be looked at by more than simply the year, but a game’s engine or major gameplay changes. So, what makes a game retro then? For me, in 2015, it’s often the jump from 2D to 3D. One can generally call Super Mario Bros. 3 “retro” or “old-school”, but I have a hard time feeling that way about Super Mario 64, despite being nearly a 20 year old game. So many times on forums you see people post “Hey guys, do you remember this gem?” and it’s a picture of Super Mario Galaxy. I’m sorry, but no, you can’t really be nostalgic or get a retro boner from such a recent game.

retro twightlight princessThis Zelda game is so retro, bro!

So, faithful readers. What is your take on nostalgia? Did I make a point or are these the ramblings of a middle-aged, grumpy gamer? Let me know below!

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About the Contributor

From 2006 to 2017

Mark Freedman is a hard hitting reporter on just what the crap is going on in the world of video games.He also writes reviews and manages the staff Q&A column. Occasionally, he has been known to take a shower. zzzz


  1. Warning: Do not play The Elder Scrolls from Arena to Skyrim! Arena is so dated it is nigh unplayable.

  2. I think retro is entirely determined based on the player’s age.For me, I would consider the jump from 2D to 3D the cutoff. But for some other gamers a little younger than me they consider the rise of Online Play as the cutoff point.

    Jason Schrier over at Kotaku said he met a designer who once said, “….anyone older than a teenager who plays video games isn’t actually enjoying them….we’re all just endlessly trying to recreate the enjoyment we used to feel, years ago, back when we were young and the world was full of possibility…..”

    I think that might be a contributing factor to nostalgia as a whole. I’m not sure I totally agree that older gamers aren’t having fun anymore but it does bear some weight whenever people go back and endlessly replay older titles like Morrowind. That title had an impact on you in some way. Newer titles aren’t going to have that same impact due to a number of factors, one of the main ones being that older people are usually more jaded and critical of their entertainment. But back when that person wasn’t that way that game was good, so it must still be good and better than other things.

    I wouldn’t worry about trying to be completely objective. Every review any of us make is going to have some bias and can be completely different based on the title. But that’s honestly what makes it so great. As much as I hate the notion of liking a game just because you liked it when you were younger I will say that it is those games we liked as kids that influence our opinions on them today and helps make everything you all write so interesting to say. So overall nostalgia and the feelings it invokes are probably a good thing.

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