We tend to remember only the rosiest parts of our past when feeling nostalgic. This is especially true for games. Memories of childhood games beckon us to replay them; to try and recapture this part of our lives.
Why are games so nostalgic?
When we revisit physical locations from our past–maybe a childhood home or grade school–we see the effects of time. Our childhood home’s landscaping is overgrown with untrimmed shrubbery and weeds. We notice the roof is discolored and sagging.
Something digitized like a movie or game provide a piece of frozen time. A digital format provides an exact copy of the game we played from our childhood.
While our childhood home decays, the neighborhood changes, childhood friends grow up and grow apart, we can replay an experience from the past in a game, like a high fidelity memory. As we play the game, old memories are triggered, amplifying that warm, nostalgic feeling.
Maybe it’s a game you used to play with a friend or family member who passed away or who grew apart. You feel as though the game is a link to their memory.
Can we really relive the past?
Despite the high fidelity of digital games, we cannot relive an experience in this same fidelity. This is the fault of our ever-changing lives. Greek philosopher Heraclitus defined this in his quote:
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
Even though a game stays constant in its mechanics and graphics, our experience differs when we play it years later. Our knowledge of the world; our interpretation of our experiences change.
This is also why eating food you enjoyed as a kid, especially sweets like candy or cookies, changes. You no longer enjoy sugary things like you did as a child.
Replaying an old game that seemed so magical as a child now seems vapid once you take off the nostalgia googles. You don’t enjoy the game as much as you enjoy the memories and feelings it triggers.
The game remains exact, but our interpretation is different.
So when you feel the urge to game due to nostalgia, remember that the promise of reliving the past is a lie. The game is better off as a memory. Focus on creating new memories so that several years from now, you can look back on today as a fond memory–one that doesn’t involve games.