“When you grow up, you’ll wish you didn’t spend so much time playing games.”
“Games don’t matter.”
My parents repeated this throughout my childhood and I’ve seen it echoed elsewhere in our culture.
In my early 30s, I can confidently say they were wrong. some of the most intense and joyful nostalgic experiences come from replaying, watching, and listening to music from those games.
And it seems I’m not alone. If you visit any number of play through videos or soundtracks available for old games on youtube, you’ll see hundreds of comments like these:
It’s easy to excuse this form of nostalgia as a return to childhood or a fantasy about a world without responsibility, but maybe that’s too easy. Although these experiences occurred during simpler times in my life, they were not better times, and they were not easy times. I would not trade my current life for any nostalgic fantasy and I would not rewind the clock to relive my childhood. Yet, the feeling I get from the games of yesteryear rekindle a longing for a distant past, possibly one which never existed.
Maybe this form of nostalgia is mourning a past me that cared less about time and productivity. A past me that didn’t care what was going to happen next week, next month, or next year - a past me who was willing to waste time. Now that I have more control over my life, I take advantage of it - for better and worse.
And, in part, maybe it was the focus required for games of that era. For me, our console game collection was small, so the alternatives for entertainment were so thin, my sisters and I were forced to really sink your teeth into these experiences (no matter how bad the games might have been). Of course, today if a game doesn’t immediately and continuously engage me, I throw it away. After all, who has the time?
Games are a uniquely immersive art form - one our culture is just now beginning to appreciate. For me, the imprints left by these virtual spaces and experiences are far more intense than movies, music, theatre, and the like. These imprints trigger a regret for not filling up my memory with more of them when I had the chance - but maybe that’s not how nostalgia works anyway.
Regardless why or how I feel this way, these experiences, and the work that made them possible, matter a great deal.