Nostalgia, Gaming, and You!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but half my gaming these days seems to be based purely on nostalgia. I’m just as likely to fire up Deus Ex or TIE Fighter than I am anything new; even if it’s a game I’ve beaten a dozen times. Am I alone here?

If there are others, I’d love to know what kind of games you find nostalgic. Are they games from your early childhood? Teenage years? Is it based on a specific time frame, or just a particular game that you enjoyed a lot? Is it the sound and music as much as anything else? I’ve been gaming since the late 80s, but the period I always seem to go back to is 1998-2004 on the PC.


Interesting question. In terms of Board Wargames (or Board games generally) despite the current rage of Card Driven Games and so called “cutting edge” design, design today is overall less innovative and less "deep* than from say, 1985 or 1992. So I can return to some of those games with both nostalgia and the knowledge that I’ll be playing a damn fine, challenging, cutting edge game. So there are myriad. I’ll give two:

With PC or console, obsolescence of technology smacks that genre around far more ruthlessly. For this I’ll give the three I have gone back to in the last four years, more than once. Less of an “ancient” factor here.

A few for me, although I don’t play them anymore:

  • Zork
  • Leather Goddesses of Phobos
  • EverQuest
  • Grim Fandango
  • Morrowind

I look back on those as a sort of magic time in gaming for me.

For board games, a lot of the Avalon Hill Games: Submarine, Luftwaffe, the Panzer games, Squad Leader, and of course Axis and Allies.

I suppose I may be more nostalgic and more forgiving of crappy graphics and outdated game mechanics than most, I still dip back into old games fairly regularly. Even though isn’t “Good Old Games” anymore I still buy lots of retro games there and love to fire them up. I’ve been going back through some of the classics of the point and click adventure genre, primarily LucasArts and Sierra stuff, and I still love them. And I’ll never get tired of Infocom games, having no graphics at all helps future-proof those games.

I’m also a big fan of the backward compatibility work MS has done with Xbox, I always pop in the older games as soon as they’re made available. Not quite as old as some of the games you all are talking about, but I still think of them as classics.

When I was 20, I used to go back to the same games over and over, regularly. Even JRPGs!
Nowadays, I don’t go back to any games out of nostalgia’s sake. When I clear a game, I cleared it and I am pretty happy to stick with my memories of it. But I have no issues playing old stuff, even antiquated things, if I am having fun with them. I recently “discovered” Ultima Underworld, and that was a fantastic experience, until it got too complicated for me. Ultima 4 was very evocative, but a bit too different to anything I ever played for me to get anywhere with it. I have started playing Super Metroid last week (because of the Music Thunderdome!), and that is a very atmospheric game, although it is very demanding in terms of reflexes. I am eyeing Betrayal at Krondor right now.
I also have a soft spot for old games esthetics, and I don’t mind them in the single bit, quite the reverse, as I think they stimulate the imagination.

Nostalgia, to me, is much more evoked by reading old magazines, or watching old shows about computers (I discovered 10 years ago the Computer Chronicles thanks to, what a blast!). It seems strange to me that media I have never been in contact with evoke the same nostalgic sentiment that the magazines I read or watched did, all the while playing my old games themselves don’t bring that warm feeling back, but that is my personal experience.

The only JRPGs I’ve really liked were the old school ones, Dragon Quest games are my favorites. I love that I can play the whole run on my GBA and 3DS.

That’s cheating: that one is practically Ultima with a gamepad!
I played Phantasy Star II at least 4 times. It was my first JRPG (or RPG for that matter) — and the game that taught me that sorry excuse of a broken English I am imposing on you. I have no idea how I could stay focused on a game that much!

That’s why I love Dragon Quest, it’s like Ultima with all the tedious crap, like keeping people fed, taken out! But yeah, the Phantasy Stars are great, and the old Final Fantasies were fun too.

Everquest and Tribes are the 2 that I tend to go back to the most. Early games, even though I loved them at the time, I just can’t get past the horrible interface/ui stuff any longer.

I do this a lot. Games I tend to replay are the Impressions city-builders, the Ultimas, and Star Control 2, Shadow Watch, X-Com, Rollercoaster Tycoon… But I also replay games I loved in the last 10 years. Anno, Brothers, Mini Metro, One Finger Death Punch…

For me, it’s not really nostalgia. It’s comfort. Coziness. I understand the games well. There aren’t many surprises. I have a pretty standard approach I take to them that’s successful, but fun. There’s a flow state I enjoy getting into where I get to make interesting choices, but nothing I need to agonize over.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed “coziness” is becoming a buzzword among game designers lately. I think partly it’s that a lot of them who are middle-aged are finding they have similar impulses and are trying to make new games that put you there instantly, without the years of familiarity.

I con’t say I play games out of nostalgia, although maybe you can consider my purchase of the Atari Vault games out of nostalgia. It’s more that I pine for the way I felt playing some games for the first time. I had a huge collection of Atari 2600 games that I loved to play, keeping high score lists in a looseleaf binder. My dad competed with me on a handful of games. Playing Escape from the Mindmaster on the 2600 blew my mind. The first Civ was magical. At the time I loved all of the Sierra Online games. I played a ton of Empire hotseat with a friend until the wee hours of the morning.

Sounds like nostalgia to me. :)

But yeah, most of my game buying these days is from GOG. I do play some newer titles. I mean, the “Dishonored” games seem to be faithful to old-school game design, so I love those, and a few others, but as @robc04 said, it’s because I want that feeling again, and old games deliver that. The first 3 “Thief” games in particular. I always go back to those. And when I’m not playing them, I’m wishing I were.

I love my memories of the old id games, like Wolf 3D and Doom, and Quake, but I haven’t yet been tempted enough to fire them up again.

Heretic, Hexen, yeah, all that shit takes me back. Times were good.

My fundamental feeling about PC games was cast in a 3-or-so-year period in the early 80’s. The rest always built from there as I continued to seek that feeling.

Playing Ultima 3, Ultima 4, Starflight, Infocom stuff on my grad-school, then work PC, either by staying in the office until 3 am on a Saturday or sneaking the PC home on Friday afternoon, before I bought my own.

I am playing mostly newer game lately but I have Zeus and Poseidon installed and often jump into that off and on. I occasionally install Emperor every few years too.

Nostalgia is mixed for me. Many of the ‘classics’ i didn’t play until years, or decades even, later. Some exceptions exist though. The 16 bit era holds a special place for me, and so do the GameCube games Metroid Prime and remastered of the N64 Zelda games. I kept my GameCube controllers and discs for that reason.

Oh, and Age of Empires II. That was my PC game of that era. Still fire it up occasionally.

You are not! I’ll elaborate later…

I meant to say that I don’t actually play those older games anymore, just pine for the way I felt when playing them :-)

So I’m nostalgic, I just don’t play them

For me, this is very much to the point… but a bit blurry as to whether it is those specific games (the original Civ, Heroes of Might and Magic, Wizardry) or whether it is the memory of playing games in that brief window after I understand the basic game mechanics, but before I am move from playing the simulated experience to playing the angles of the game rules.

Probably not so clear what I mean, so… At first glance, I think I pine for the original Civ. But actually, I pine for sitting there developing Germany through the forests and grasslands, thinking of it as an ancient German leader, with not a thought to how certain techs or wonders were the clearcut best ways to win the game centuries down the road.

For me, the problem with recent games is that the basic game mechanics/rules are so unclear that I end up relying on Let’s Plays to explain… but deliberately or not, those videos simultaneously focus on a sort of strategy that focuses on working the rules rather than the wonder of the thing being simulated.

I think it is related to the sense of discovery. Exploring the different actions, getting wow’ed by the effect of a new wonder you’ve never built. Civ one was magic.

While I have fond memories of several games, to me it’s largely about fresh ideas and new experiences, which is why I gravitate to indies for the most part. Give me a flawed original concept or at least a fresh approach to an old one over Civ XII any day.