Maybe it’s because I’ve played so many games, but I really just don’t get this love affair so many in the gaming press/community and, to a lesser extent, actual developers have with 90’s video games. To me, modern gaming has so much more to offer than could have ever been dreamed of 30 years ago. Yeah, games are easier now–that’s a byproduct of 3D game design–but you also don’t need a cheat code to get past the third level anymore, either. You also don’t need to have a notebook full of save codes to reenter every time you start a game. Oh, and things are actually recognizable on the screen.

As a relatively older gamer, I’ve pretty much witnessed the entirety of video game history. As a kid I had an Atari 2600 (when it was new) along with a number of early PCs and other computer/living room console crossover systems that no one even remembers anymore. In my Southern California middle school’s computer lab, all my classmates and I did was trade Apple and early PC games. Since then I’ve owned every home video game console released in the United States, and as an adult, I’ve been in the consumer electronics and video games industry for nearly 20 years. That means, over my life, I’ve literally played thousands of video games.

Besides priding myself as a pragmatist, the fact that I’ve played such a large number of games is probably why I don’t, at all, get gaming nostalgia. There’s never been one particular game that I’ve spent a whole year playing. As a matter of fact, I’ve always had a diversity of gaming options, and utilized it. Sure, I have some cherished gaming memories of the time I spent playing The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, and even the earliest Madden games. The thing is though, I was always looking forward to the next one, the one with better graphics, new mechanics, something even more than the one I was playing had.

The closest I can come to understanding this gaming nostalgia movement, is probably with music. I would say about 90 percent of my music collection is made up of eighties alternative. From early punk rock, like The Damned, The Germs, and 45 Grave, to shoegazers like, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Jesus and Mary Chain, post-punk like Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Joy Division, along with more upbeat stuff like The Violent Femmes, and The Pixies. I own a lot of CDs. Even with music though, as much as I love those songs, I long for more modern versions of them or new bands to take what they did and improve upon it. As a matter of fact, I even think The Cure’s Mixed Up album has the best versions of their early songs, like The Forest.

Mighty No. 9

Maybe it’s just change. Some people don’t react to it very well, and I guess that’s amplified by “growing up.” There are new responsibilities, new challenges, and it’s a tough world out there. I suppose that if you spent a lot of time as a kid playing a certain type of game, getting good at it, falling back to those memories might be somewhat comforting. That’s essentially what Twenty One Pilots’ Stressed Out is all about, right? Sadly, that’s life, and mommy issues aside, the rest of us want better video games.

Truthfully, nostalgia never really lives up to your memories anyway. The Mighty No. 9 and Duke Nukem Forever, are perfect examples of that. They were both exactly what everyone said they wanted, but ultimately failed to live up to the expectations of our memories.  Sadly, the new Shenmue game is likely to end up the same way, if it even actually gets made. I loved the original Shenmue, but considering what Shenmue was, originally, what can Yu Suzuki even do at this point, with a limited budget, that games like Fable 2, Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption, Yakuza 5, or any number of games haven’t already done in the 15 years since Shenmue II was released?

All I can say is, “Let it go.” Seriously, we all have cherished memories, but it doesn’t do any good to keep trying to live in them. The video game industry has done amazing things in the last 30 years. The quality of presentation is finally at a level that rivals television and movies, and even the narratives are slowly evolving to a comparable level. As gamers, we should all be championing the growth of the industry we love, and supporting its evolution. I loved Colossal Cave Adventure as a kid, but will probably never play another text adventure game in my life, and that’s okay. New games like Life is Strange, and Witcher 3 are almost everything a ten year-old me imagined video games could be.

After all of that, I will admit, I’m slightly intrigued, by Nintendo’s new NES Classic Edition, but I know I won’t ever actually play it. Maybe I’ll get it for my kids though.

Are you in the “make a candle out of it…” and “…only sell one.” camp?  What do you think?  Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to follow us on Twitter (@Official_OnlySP) and Facebook where you can also sound off your opinions.

The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.

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Lance Roth
Writer, musician, and indie game developer in the Land of Enchantment.

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