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Forums - Gaming Discussion - Is Nostalgia Just Stubbornness?

According to a recent study I read, doing things from the past, or when you were a child, literally receives mental pain. So there appears to be an actual, chemical reason for not only why we seek it out, but why we keep doing it. It serves an important role in mental health.

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pokoko said:

In a large measure, yes.

Fallout New Vegas has always been one of my favorite games. Then came Fallout 4, which I loved to death, but there was always this voice in my head going, "yeah, but New Vegas is better." It was like a part of me was resentful that something might usurp the position of a childhood favorite. So, when I was done with F4 the first time around, I went back to play NV for more of that Fallout fix I needed so badly.

The nostalgia goggles came off very quickly.

I ran through NV in no time, all the countless improvements in Fallout 4 suddenly becoming clear and all the flaws in NV standing out like never before. By the end, when I'm sitting there watching a damned slide-show finish, I realize that I will likely never play New Vegas again (at least, this version). And, also, that I had a bad itch to do some base building in another run of Fallout 4.

I came to the conclusion that it's fine to look back and say "I loved this game" but not to view the past in terms of absolutes--or to depend on my memory in order to make direct comparisons.

Offtopic but speaking about your example: Curiously enough, a similar situation happened to me but with F3 and NV. Before I got a 7th gen console (or a capable PC) and being a big classic Fallout fan I could only dream of playing F3. When I finally got it I enjoyed it a lot (with some exceptions) yet when I got NV it was like a revelation. Same engine and basically the same gameplay yet the changes in NV made F3 basically "obsolete" for me. I haven't played it since (though maybe I should) just cause I'd rather play NV again.

All that being said, I have yet to play F4 due to the criticisms I've heard on the gameplay and the story. As someone who LOVED NV, do you think it's possible I could like F4? Specifically the story and if the story isn't good, can it still be enjoyed regardless?

Spike0503 said:

Offtopic but speaking about your example: Curiously enough, a similar situation happened to me but with F3 and NV. Before I got a 7th gen console (or a capable PC) and being a big classic Fallout fan I could only dream of playing F3. When I finally got it I enjoyed it a lot (with some exceptions) yet when I got NV it was like a revelation. Same engine and basically the same gameplay yet the changes in NV made F3 basically "obsolete" for me. I haven't played it since (though maybe I should) just cause I'd rather play NV again.

All that being said, I have yet to play F4 due to the criticisms I've heard on the gameplay and the story. As someone who LOVED NV, do you think it's possible I could like F4? Specifically the story and if the story isn't good, can it still be enjoyed regardless?

Depends on your mindset.  If you go in with the preconception that "Bethesda sucks, I'm gonna hate this because it's not exactly like New Vegas" like some of the vocal "old school RPG" people then, no, you're not going to like it.  The Fallout message boards were full of people who hated Fallout 4 before it even released and were trying to convince everyone else to follow their lead.

Assuming you're not that type, then you should like it regardless since it's the same template.  I really can't understand someone liking one but not the other.  How much you like it depends.

If you love exploring open worlds filled with lore and interesting encounters, like me, then Fallout 4 is incredible.  In that regard, you can't really compare the two games because of the massive content differential.  In NV, you can see pretty much everything in a few hundred hours.  In F4, it would take you THOUSANDS of hours to see everything.  Plus, F4 has all these details about the people who lived and died before you ever showed up that I absolutely loved.  I think of it as "environmental storytelling."

Pure gameplay, again, F4 is a massive improvement.  Same with QoL features.  SO MUCH more fun to fight a gang of Raiders or Super Mutants and there is always something around you calling for your attention.

As for the story and main quest, it's kind of funny, but F4 and NV are really opposites.  New Vegas starts out with this fantastic premise where you're shot in the head, left for dead, and then go out seeking revenge.  Total cliche but it's obviously supposed to be a nod to the classic western.  Then there is a turning point where things go straight downhill--there are goofy Roman soldiers, laughable climactic battles, shoe-horned events that come out of nowhere, and the eye-rolling revelation that it all revolves around the worn-out "hidden cache of super-weapons" plot.  I will never not hate how it devolved near the end.

On the other hand, Fallout 4 starts out with a prebuilt character history (annoying--I always use a mod to change that now) and the lame motive of rescuing your kidnapped child.  Now, if this were a book, F4's premiss would be more interesting, but this is a GAME, so it just ends up feeling like baggage that you don't actually care about.  However, once you get that out of the way, F4's story of an inevitable confrontation between three different groups who can never see eye-to-eye actually starts to pay off.  The endings are FAR more fun to play through and can vary greatly depending on which side you choose, with some really tough final battles.

Either way, the 'story' in both games is just fluff designed to move you from one event to another.  Neither are very good beyond that.

That being said, if you are one of the "role-playing has to mimic pen & paper conventions" types and you want your game stuffed with "RPG systems" where the developers set everything up for you like a DM then you'll probably like New Vegas a lot more.  I'm more of the free-form type, I prefer to make my own rules and use my own imagination to govern my character, so F4's settlement building system was a god-send.  FOR ME, it was the best role-playing game I've ever played--I built settlements the way I WANTED and played as much in my own imagination as in the game.  For instance, I did a dark play-through where I cast the Minutemen as fanatics and placed things like torture rooms, holding pens, and execution pits in their home settlement (using mods to add more flavor).

Then again, Fallout 4 does have a Survival Mode that a lot of old-school RPG gamers love.  You have to sleep, eat food and drink water, fight off disease, and deal with a lot more of the details of surviving.  No quicksaves or fast travel, either.  I found it tedious but it's very popular.

In short, I think if someone hates one and loves the other then it's probably because they're a sucker for their own propaganda.  Fundamentally, they're far more alike than they are different.

Replaying Luigi's Mansion recently it's exactly how I remembered it. Some games do age well.

Well, this deserves a longer answer.

Let me start by telling my childhood games for references: the LucasArts adventures (Indiana Jones, Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle), UFO: Enemy Unknown, Duke Nukem 3D, Descent, Sherlock (a logic puzzle), One Must Fall 2097, Civilization and Colonization, Lemmings, Worms, DynaBlaster (european name of Bomberman), Return to Zork, Star Wars: Dark Forces, Jagged Alliance, Supaplex, Pinball Dream and Fantasies. Later in my youth also Unreal tournament, Starcraft, Heroes of Might and Magic, Baldur's Gate I+II. I also played Doom, Simon the Sorcerer and Sim City (and others) but wasn't that impressed (although Doom has banging music). I think I also played an early Bethesda game - Terminator 2029, but my memory on this is mushy. As you can see that is centered around the 90s. Most of the games I liked back then I still like. Doom grew on me as I became older.

Now, I watched the video and regarding some points:

1. Yes, we had less information. But given the time that even includes advertisements. I cannot remember *any* advertisement for games, I mostly got what others in school recommended. I would argue these days your video game decisions are far more driven by advertisment and hype (which is mostly driven by good advertisement). While we live in an age of information, the information is so abundant that serious information is drowned by other stuff, and money can buy good places for informations. So what you know about video games today is driven more by the biggest publishers with the most money than it was back in the day. Also to note, that video game companies back then were 10 guys in an office, without the funds to influence media they can today.
2. Nice Oregon Trail reference. As a european I never came in contact with the game, but I learned about it much later through Teen Titans Go.
3. Your point about picking the good games from the past is true. But I would argue it is fuel for Retro gamers. Because between hype and information flooding and technical bling it is hard to spot the games with staying power, the games with a good core. As a retro gamer it is already mostly clear which games are good and which are bad and you can save time by just picking the good ones.
4. I agree that modern games aren't inherently bad. There are some bad directions, but there are still a lot of good games. Is it harder to pick the good apples between the foul ones these days? That is hard for me to consider. Remember, back in the day I choose games filtered by multiple layers of my peers, other students. So I already only heard about games that impressed others. As the gaming industry nowadays make some people seriously rich, kids are much more targeted with ads, not necessarily identifiable as advertisement too, influencers and such are also a form of advertisement.

So, I agree with the main point of the video, that you cannot say all new games are bad.

But in this discussion between old and new there are less reasonable standpoints common: some people claim others like retro games *only* for nostalgia or that old games are worse in general because the tech advanced. This is ridiculous.

I have a rule of thumb: a good game is still good in five or ten years. If all it builds upon is some tech bling than it will not hold up over time. But you can have the tech bling and also deep and engaging mechanics, these games will stand the test of time.

That is worse for online driven games. If the server shut downs the game becomes a lot less attractive or even unplayable. And for some games that don't catch on like the publishers intended, that can happen quite fast.

I am not only playing games, but also watch movies. As movies are around a lot longer, the nostalgia theory can be tested much easier. As there are movies that are older than me, so nostalgia cannot come into play. And yet I still love movies like Casablanca, North by Northwest, Doctor Strangelove or: the incredibly long title, The Magnificient Ambersons, Seven Samurai, Modern Times, To Kill a Mockingbird or Vertigo. There are great movies in the past and we should and can recognize that. That doesn't mean there aren't great movies these days, but maybe it is harder to find them between the hype.

As a last thing, there is also the soul of a piece of art. It is hard to put a finger on it, but often we can recognize if the creators of art put their heart in it. This is relevant for this discussion, because before a art form turns into a big industry projects are financed often with free hands for the creative people, but the more money is made, the more often the business people control the project. That is also a reason why indie projects see some love, because they are often made with the creative freedom of their makers. I have a pretty modern example: a team at Ubisoft made Assassin's Creed Odyssey and then Immortals: Fenyx Rising. Both projects share similarities from gameplay to the general greek setting. But it feels a lot like Odyssey was the project that they were tasked to do, while Immortals was the project they *wanted* to do. This is relevant to this discussion, because back in the 80s, 90s and up until early 2000s most games were made by people enthusiastic about it. Yes, they also wanted to make money with it, but they wanted to make it with games because they loved games. There are a lot of upsides of a more professional gaming environment, but there is the danger that you produce games as products instead of games as art losing the soul on the way.

Sorry, this post is a lot of incoherent thoughts about the topic, partly with, partly without relation to the video in the OP. I hope you get some of my ideas that are connected to the topic and that they are interesting for you. To be clear: I don't say retro games are better than modern games, but I say they have their place beyond nostalgia (or stubbornness).

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Yes and no.
Nostalgia is an amazing thing to have however this day and age, it's used to be bias towards games and its ratings. Too many people use Nostalgia to cover over cristism holes.

I'm, as long I'm concerned, unable to feel nostalgia. If something was relevant enough to make lasting impact it was probably a negative (or at least mixed) feeling instead of a positive one. I think in truth most memories are, indeed, a mix of feelings, but most of people's brain erase the bad impressions in a way to preserve pleasure and joyness. That's probably why everybody think older games as perfect... even if deep down, when they were playing, the games never felt perfect in first place

Beyond that, as I can't preserve most of my memories, every time I watch, play, listen or visit something is an almost completely new experience and I only have very very vague memories of how used to be the experience in past and the new feelings simply overwhelm past feelings. That's why I sometimes need lists and social media to organize what was my opinion about let's say, an anime, because I just can't really trust my long therm memory

I wonder how this will impact my relationship with entertainment once I start to age. I already forgot almost all things I lived before being 10 years old, I hear old people (80+) recollecting their childhood memories and I wonder... how can they ?

Kakadu18 said:

Replaying Luigi's Mansion recently it's exactly how I remembered it. Some games do age well.

As much as I still love the first Luigi's Mansion, I'm still very happy with how Luigi's Mansion 3 turned out. Just like how even though I still love older Mario Kart games, Mario Kart 8 DX has a lot to offer me, like being able to do Battle Mode without needing to have someone over.

Considering that most of my Zelda nostalgia comes from Ocarina of Time, and I myself see it as a mid tier Zelda game compared to the rest of the franchise (having played EVERY mainline game in the franchise)...yet get blasted by OoT fanatics that cannot accept that some of the future entries did the same thing better, or that ALttP was also arguably a better game...I have come to believe yes...nostalgia is indeed in a large part stubbornness.

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This video does make some fair points.  There are good games and bad games today, and just as their were good games and bad games in every previous console generation.  However, this video is mostly about defending modern gaming.  In doing so, it is fairly dismissive of retro gaming.  Do retro gamers have "nostalgia goggles"?  Yes, but it is no more prevalent than people who have "shiny new game goggles" or people who are simply technophiles.

Here is a more objective way to look at this discussion.  Ask these questions:

1) Are there ways in which both groups are biased?
2) Are there ways that a person's preference is gaming comes down to taste?
3) Are there ways that modern games are objectively better?
4) Are there ways that retro games are objectively better?

So lets break it down

Are there ways in which both groups are biased? 
Yes.  Everyone has some biases.  Furthermore when you start talking about groups there are going to be individuals in both groups with huge biases.  The other points are more interesting though, so let's move on.

Are there ways that a person's preference is gaming comes down to taste?
Yes.  Modern games tend to be longer.  They also are more likely to be oriented around story and cutscenes.  Essentially, the most popular games today tend to be designed to be played through once while retro games are more likely to be shorter and designed with replay value.  Which one is better?  This comes down to taste.  A person who really likes story games will probably think that modern gaming is unquestionably better, while the person looking for a shorter game with replay value will prefer retro games.  Also, modern games tend to be more complex than retro games.  How complex a person likes their game is also a matter of taste.  Some genres, like 2D platformers, do not get the kind of attention that they used to.  Other genres, like 3D open world games, are more popular now or maybe weren't possible in some earlier generations.  Which of these genres are better is a matter of taste.

Are there ways that modern games are objectively better?
Yes. Graphics is one obvious way that modern games are better.  Another way is that a modern buggy game can be fixed through patches, while older buggy games could not.  Lastly, and most importantly, new games are better because you haven't experienced them yet.  Let's say, for the sake of argument, that both Horizon games are equally good, but you've played the first one but not the second one.  That means the second one will be better than replaying through the first one again.  The second one is a new (or at least "new to you") experience, and it is inherently more fun to play through a game that you haven't experienced before.  The "new to you" game will have some degree of novelty and surprise that the one you've played before won't have.  In short, "new to you" experiences are better. 

Are there ways that retro games are objectively better?
Yes.  Over the years, gaming has become less consumer friendly.  All of the new pricing models (like microtransactions) on some games do make them worse.  And while some people do prefer longer games, shorter retro games have an indirect advantage: you can try more of them in the same amount of time.  One reason that many people are not playing all of the good modern games is that they simply don't have time to do so.  Many modern games are a huge time investment, and so the player has to be more selective with their time. 

However, I think the biggest advantage that retro games had was shorter development times.  Impactful games and innovative games used to come out more frequently in earlier generations.  That is because development times used to be significantly shorter.  What are the biggest selling games today?  Minecraft, GTA5, and Mario Kart 8.  These games released in 2011, 2013 and 2014 respectively.  Each of these games are older than an entire console generation.  On top of that 2 of those games are sequels, and most game of the year games also tend to be sequels.  Their is less originality in the biggest releases of today than there is in the biggest releases on most retro consoles.  Keep in mind that the first entry in the following series all released on the same console in the span of just a few short years: Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Castlevania, Mega Man, Dr. Mario, Metal Gear, Advance Wars (Famicom Wars), Fire Emblem, and Tetris.  That is a lot of innovation in a short amount of time.  And those are just the franchises that people have heard of.  One of the biggest advantages of retro gaming is that you can find a lot of fun experiences on these older consoles that are nothing like what you find in the top modern games today.  As I stated in an earlier point, novelty is better, and retro gaming is full of novelty.

So, basically there are some things in modern games that you just can't find in retro games, but the opposite is true too.  Both types of games can be very fun, and it is probably not a good idea to immediately dismiss one type of gaming over the other, unless you can first acknowledge that retro gaming is objectively better in some ways and modern gaming is objectively better in other ways.  And of course, a lot of it does come down to individual taste.