2016: The Dangers of Nostalgia

There’s a magazine I often pick up when I’m waiting for a train at Birmingham New Street station – Retro Gamer. The title pretty much explains it all, but it doesn’t just do retrospectives the timeless classics like Metroid, Warcraft and Tomb Raider, and devices like the smash Christmas hit of the NES Mini, but also looking at the obscure and long-forgotten games and systems e.g. the Acorn Electron. A lot of love goes into this publication, and it’s always fun to read on the long train journey to and from work.

Another reason I buy it is because I had it on good authority that Retro Gamer was one of the lowest-selling titles for Imagine Publishing, and was only three consecutive months of bad sales away from cancellation. I say “was”, only because Imagine was taken over by Future Publishing in October 2016; Retro Gamer has been assured that nothing will change as far as they’re concerned, and they can carry on without the threat of cancellation over their heads.

That’s right… somebody in Britain had a good 2016.This got me thinking about nostalgia in general. Of course, pretty much everything on this blog revolves around a fondness for The Good Old Days®. One of my video game capsule reviews centred around a remake of a 90’s sci-fi classic, a reboot of a 90’s edutainment classic, and a new spin on the “match-3” puzzle game sub-genre, which is almost as old as me.

There’s a lot of griping nowadays about how Hollywood and TV execeutives have run out of ideas, and are just using old IPs to fill in the gaps and trick fans into emptying their wallets. It’s true, of course, but this attitude fails to take into account the fact that it’s not exactly a recent phenomenon – just ask any fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, or anyone who loves the Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible movies, or… well, you get my point.

That said, but that doesn’t mean all remakes/re-releases/reboots/re-whatevers are made equal. I was tickled pink to hear the news that both of the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance games had been re-released on Steam. I was considerably less tickled when I saw that both games were selling for £31.99 each, the promised DLC was absent (albeit patched in after much complaining) and there was next to no support for modern controllers.

It might be fun to remember how great it was back in the day, but that doesn’t mean it actually was great. I’ve talked about cartoons from my childhood that I loved were a bit boring or rather preachy, and I’m okay with that because not everything has to be the same as I remember it. My older brother told me a while back how he’d watched some of the 80’s Turtles cartoon, and how disappointed he was at the goofiness in the writing.

It was hard for him to accept that something he loved hadn’t withstood the test of time, but he had to face it at some point – it’s not like he’d never watch an episode of the show again (especially after I got him that DVD boxset for Christmas all those years ago). It’s okay to love the past, but it shouldn’t be unconditional love.

Alright, I’ve danced around this long enough, so if you don’t want to see me getting political then just stop here: the last six and a half months or so have seen Britain and America make the dumbest mistakes they’ve made in living memory; Britain decided to throw away the one thing holding its economy together, and the USA elected a reality TV star with two failed marriages and 10 accusations of sexual molestation, who says dumb shit on Twitter.

This decision was mostly made by old people who fell for catchy slogans about how great it was back in The Good Old Days®, when things worked completely differently to how they do now. I have been told on two separate occasions that I’m uninformed about the effects of Brexit, because I’m “not old enough to remember what it was like when we weren’t in the EU“, because reading academic texts about the impact of leaving The Single Market doesn’t matter when you can remember when we measured everything in yards and roods.

The point I’m trying to get at is that maybe we shouldn’t all be slaves to nostalgia, and that you might want to re-examine what made that moment so good (if they were good at all). Just because somebody’s promising it’ll be just like it was way back when, it might be a good idea to look at just what’s being promised.

Just a thought.

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