In recent years there have been several reboots, reimaginings, remasterings, and relaunches of old franchises. This is the birth of a time in which gaming nostalgia is taking the front row seat. This concept is not a new one and in some regards, it is not a bad idea. Doom and Wolfenstein both reinvented themselves in the modern era, giving birth to a new story for a new generation of fans. Other games simply got the graphics update but kept close to the core values within the original games. Spyro, Crash, and many other titles have had this digital remastering and turned out fine.
There is no doubt that there is money in gaming nostalgia. Ready Player One and Pixels showed that people remember the good times of gaming and often revisit their digital roots. There is a general tone and many memories found in the old eras of gaming. Even I am known to dust off my old N64 every so often and reboot a game or two.
What is becoming concerning is the use of gaming nostalgia to rake in cash by companies that barely understand why their game holds such value to fans. The memories are intrinsic to the experience within the digital world. It is easy to take a user experience point of view and understand not only the challenges present at the time but the environment that gamers were in during that era. There is more to this though as experiences run deeper than visuals and special effects.
There Are Strengths Inherent To Gaming Nostalgia
Childhood is a precious time in many people’s lives. Whether you enjoyed yours or worked hard to escape it there are fundamental pillars of belief that were generated during that time. Video games hold a special place in children’s hearts during the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s as the main source of entertainment on the cutting edge of technology.
That is not saying that games are not special to modern children, they are simply special in a different way. There were fundamental differences in how games were developed and perceived during those early years. Video games used to be a niche hobby and although mainly targetted boys it did have a large population of both male and female enthusiasts.
This comes from the power of storytelling and interaction. A game, even back then, could convey such intense narrative experiences as well as challenging battles to overcome. This resulted in hours upon hours of dedication to digital foes and a never-ending push to get better and better. Games back then were not about achievements as much as completion. Although the high-score implementation created a core level of competition the main consumer market simply bypassed this for the experience of the game itself.
With so much time dedicated to the games, they became an important part of many gamer’s lives. Revisiting these games brings back memories of a different era before online competitive gaming and microtransactions changed the core of the entire craft.
But There Are Some Concerns
Nostalgia plays off of a foundational memory and distorts the reality of a game. While it might be nice to revisit old grounds, having major companies working on nostalgic franchises with only a remastering in mind can result in two steps back for the gaming industry. This does not mean we should stop remastering games, simply that it should be a nice nod to and not a foundational plan.
The other main problem is companies misrepresenting precious memories on old franchises. Although the reboot of Spyro turned out great the same was not said about Battlefront during its launch. When you mess with a game that people hold dear to their heart and simply remaster you often find that it is not as great as remembered.
Is It Fair To Market On The Happy Memories Of Youth?
This can turn ethical with questions revolving around marketing on memories. The idea of revisiting old lands that were once full of players can seem appealing but often times it feels different during a different age. The idea of marketing the return to a better time predicates on the idea that where we currently are is lacking in some virtue. This could be true as modern games are often described as halllow and repetitive, with some exceptions of course, and many are experiencing burnout.
To simply revisit an old game due to lack of exceptional modern games is a bad solution as well. We as a community must continue to move forward. We can easily see progress being made with the new Call of Duty Modern Warfare is released. This is not simply a rehash of an old topic but a revitalization of a lost series beloved by its fans. If we are to continue to grow the way we want to then this is where nostalgia should take us, forward not backward.
Development Companies Must Be Careful With Valued Franchises
Dealing with the personal emotions of people and things they hold dear is always a risky business. If you do it well you can end up hugely successful but if you mess it up the fans will never forgive you. This can clearly be seen int eh evolution of the Halo franchise’s fan base. As of the release of Halo 5 the fans fractured between the series. This is never good for any game’s community.
The safe bet is to just remaster the game but this simply will not achieve the same goal the companies need. A remastering does not mean the game will sell again. Reinventing is the only other option and with reimaginings appearing everywhere of old franchises companies are quickly learning why this is dangerous territory.
Gaming Nostalgia Should Stay Nostalgia, Evolution Is The Only Exception
The point in all of this is that gaming nostalgia should evolve and push the industry forward. Companies are learning that they can only go so far rehashing the same product over and over, fans want something new. They want a new experience in a world they remember, not simply the same product reskinned. Although EA can shake up the world as many times as they want Call of Duty will continue to remain Call of Duty.
So, if you are wanting to profit off of gaming nostalgia, it may be a good idea to look forward rather then back and build upon the foundations left by the giants. Everything is about the experience, and nostalgia simply is not a strong enough experience to push the industry further into the future.1