Video games have come an immense way since the birth of the industry. The technology used to create the original Spacewar! in the early 1960s seems to be of a completely different world from the current AAA games with their hyper-realistic graphics and incredible virtual worlds. But despite the technological advancements, the modern gamer still tend to keep their distance from new titles, in order to look back on a time of games past.
Is this nostalgia a tendency obstructing the development of the medium?
A market dominated by sequels
The average gamer is now in their mid thirties. (Shaw, 2012)
These adult players have grown up alongside the industry, and this means that for the first time ever, we are experiencing a generation who can truly look back on the games from their childhood with fond memories and longing.
Mark Hill, in his article concerning nostalgia from 2015, claims that the tendency for the games industry to produce sequels after sequel, is a direct result of nostalgia.
One reason for studios to remake the same title again and again, is the minimal risk of producing something the designers already know will be well received, and loved. But how come players did not yet grow tired of franchises such as Final Fantasy (of which there are fifteen), or World of Warcraft (with it’s six expansions)?
Hill explains this constant craving for more and more instalments of the same title, as nothing more than a desperate hunt to recreate the memories from a happy childhood.
A series of interviews done by Mike Molesworth in 2009 touched on this exact tendency, and revealed that most adult players will indeed revisit old titles in an attempt to experience what they felt as children. However – most of the time – this results in disappointment. Either because of technological advancements, which made the older games look less good than remembered, or because simply plugging in the game does not equal time travel: Even if the game is true to the memory, everything else is not: The environment, the friends participating, or the motivation for playing.
Still, a lot of energy is being spent on remastering older games. And even though this might indeed be able to take care of the displeasure of bad looking old favourites, it will not recreate the couch the player sat on, or bring old friends back.
Is all of this energy remastering and iterating well spent?
Should game makers and studios really be spending these large budgets and countless hours, just to satisfy a nostalgic craving in a wistful audience? Perhaps. But even if that is the case, then what will happen once the next generation – who did not grow up with the original GTAs and Tomb Raiders – takes over?
Hill, Mark (2015) Nostalgia Is Ruining Video Games. Atlantic Online. November, 2015. Accessed March 15th, 2017.
Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/11/nostalgia-video-games/416751/
Molesworth, Mike (2009) “Adult’s Consumption of Videogames as Imaginative Escape From Routine”. Advances in Consumer Research, Volume 36. pp 378 – 383. 2009, Bournemouth University, UK.
Shaw, Adrienne (2012) “Do you identify as a gamer? Gender, race, sexuality, and gamer identity.” New Media & Society, Issue 14, Issue 1. pp. 28 – 44. (February) University of Pittsburgh. Accessed February 17th, 2017.
Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1461444811410394
Leviathyn (2015) Final Fantasy X/X2 Remastered: Your favourite RPG just got a facelift! Accessed March 30th, 2017.
Available at: http://www.leviathyn.com/2015/06/03/final-fantasy-xx2-remaster-favorite-rpg-just-got-facelift/
My Gaming (2013) Tomb Raider 1. Accessed March 30th, 2017.
Available at: https://mygaming.co.za/news/features/51337-lara-croft-and-tomb-raider-over-the-ages.html
Polygon (2015) Rise of the Tomb Raider Review. Accessed March 30th, 2017.
Available at: http://www.polygon.com/2015/11/9/9633858/rise-of-the-tomb-raider-review-xbox-one-crystal-dynamics-square-enix
Crystal Dynamics (2015) Rise of the Tomb Raider, Square Enix.
Eidos Interactive (1996) Tomb Raider, Eidos Interactive.
Square Enix (2013) Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster, Square Enix.
Russell, Steve (1962) Spacewar!, Russell Steve.