Its Own Bad Way: Addendum to the GameLuster Podcast, Episode 2

The proverbial cameras—or, actual microphones—stopped rolling and it hit me; language did, that is. But Christine and I had already gone into much detail and this additional point seemed like merciless overkill. Who could really notice the extra nail in the coffin? Who would really want it? Nevertheless, this additional point deserves its chance at being misread and has been arranged thusly for your reading pleasure.

When people talk about nostalgia, it’s always done with a heightened amount of phlegm and pre-vomit in the throat. Usually, in any discussion where the word is used explicitly or implicitly, the conclusion precludes the discussion as much as it introduces it: you should feel bad for indulging in the sensation of reliving your past. Immediately, this word invokes a series of dichotomies that couple value judgements with the temporal relationship past – present, all of which essentially call attention to the past as bad in relation to the present, which is good. The past is seen as bad because we are now in the present; we have evolved since then, games have evolved since then, and so everything in the now is seen as superior. The relics of the past should remain in the past, is the sentiment you often find bouncing from wall to wall in these discussions.
That is simply the discourse of nostalgia. Yet these thoughts seem too simple, too black and white, to hold any merit sufficiently interesting for your perusal. If it’s wrong or stupid or naïeve to consider the past necessarily superior, then surely it must be equally wrong, stupid, or naïeve to consider the past necessarily inferior? So the coin of the discourse of nostalgia reveals its two sides: time is made up of two points and one is simply better than the other. But this coin assumes that time is a purely linear thing, that evolution of systems, rather, is a purely linear thing. Could it be any more confusing, then, to hear either side use clichés like “as old as time” and “to stand the test of time”?

There are reasons why some things change and some things don’t. You’ll pardon the tautology as each reason deserves its own discussion which cannot and won’t be featured here. The combat, horseback riding, or basic movement systems can all change from iteration to iteration in any Zelda game, but the larger story structure has mostly—if not completely—stayed the same from the first to last iteration. Moreover, this story structure, as many have painstakingly pointed out by now, is based on some of the first stories man has ever conceived and considered worthwhile remembering since. This, in itself, is no argument for the superiority for the past over the present, but it certainly can’t be an argument for the reverse to be true. So to conclude that any game is necessarily inferior for relying too much on the established successes of the past, as well as the reverse tactic, has gotten really old. Oh, and DQVIII for the DS has a quicksave function which is great.

This text serves as a footnote to the discussion in the recent GameLuster podcast episode where Christine and Jorge talk about “returning to the roots of the original.” For more, check out the episode here.

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