Game-publisher Blizzard made a retro version of its online role-playing game World of Warcraft available last summer: World of Warcraft Classic. Fans of the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) can indulge their nostalgia and relive the hugely popular game as it was available in August 2006. Where does this craving for nostalgia come from? Retro is all of today. Blizzard is not the only publisher that is betting on an old version of a game this year. EA is working on a remake of the popular strategy game Command & Conquer (1995) and after the original Age of Empires (1997) was released last year in a new style, the second part (1999) also gets its own remake in November, after which Age of Empires III (2005) still has to follow.
In addition to games, other forms of media, such as film and music, also show that old successes are being revived. Disney releases one remake of his classics after another, and in recent years the Spice Girls and Toy Box, among others, have breathed new life into the stage in the nineties. "People feel a strong connection with things from the past that have evoked special emotions", says Karolien Poels of the University of Antwerp. She researched the emotions and experiences of gamers. "That was in 2007, the time when the PlayStation and Nintendo Wii really emerged, but MMORPGs, such as World of Warcraft, also became big. "You can see that desire for nostalgia in Disney films, for example. They are very responsive to emotions and strong feelings, so people like to see them again. Moreover, a game like World of Warcraft has extra ingredients in it to arouse those nostalgic feelings. A game can create a strong emotional involvement on many levels. It may appeal to people because of the social aspect, or just the story or the competition".
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"That emotional experience lingers very strongly. Because the experience used to be emotional, it also means that the memory of such a game or film is very emotionally charged. It feels similar to a class reunion: even after twenty years people go there to retrieve memories of shared experiences". "Many old games can often be replayed, for example via an emulator (hardware and/or software to simulate games, ed.), but that is not actually the case with an online game like World of Warcraft", says Anne Bras, game archivist at the Institute for Sound and Vision. "It's a bit like a theatre play: you can only go there once".
Although he played a lot of World of Warcraft, Bras does not tend to return to World of Warcraft Classic. "I played it a lot with my ex at the time," he says. "Not that I have anything against her, on the contrary. If I could play with her again, I would like that very much. I had very good times with her, but now I no longer have any contact with her. So that's the end of the story: I can't relive those times. The game archivist also sees the re-release of old games as old wine in new bags. "It is a cheap trick to make easy money. Companies have a working concept ready and can take advantage of nostalgia to resell it". The fact that companies actually see bread in it is also proof that old game consoles are being re-released. After the NES Classic Mini (Nintendo), the Mega Drive Mini (SEGA) and the PlayStation Classic (Sony) will also be launched this autumn.