Fan Service: The Dangers of Nostalgia Goggles

Nostalgia goggles are dangerous in the wrong circumstances

By Mel Turnquist. Posted 08/07/2012 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Mel Turnquist's Fan Service masthead column

Welcome boys and girls to another edition of Fan Service where the best of fandom gets its props and the worst of fandom gets its knocks. Today we’re going to focus on something that everybody has equipped in their fandom kits from day one– nostalgia goggles. While they’re sometimes nice to wear and can bring people together in a lot of ways, they can also be very dangerous for any kind of fandom in general. Today’s discussion is more of a cautionary tale of why nostalgia goggles aren’t always a good thing.

The past is a great place to visit and to get inspiration from regardless of which fandom or field you may belong to. We enjoy the comforts that remind us all of a simpler time. The past is also a good place to reference because it helps the new seem not so scary or abhorrent. These are the things that we’re always drawn to, and the past brings this to us in bucket loads.

But nostalgia goggles happen whenever we play a video game, a console, or become a fan of a video game franchise. We partake in this fandom from the early days and we cherish those memories as the tapestry that weaves throughout our entire childhood. You may see a remake of an original game and reminisce about how you tried in vain to finish it before bedtime, or you may hear some little kid talking fondly of the game and remember how you were at that age. These are the more harmless bouts of nostalgia goggles clouding one’s vision, but they can be slightly more dangerous in two certain circumstances– when the vision is tinted so darkly that you refuse to embrace anything new or different, or when they’re used to bash other franchises and their fans.

Some say the original’s the best, but we’re also quite partial to a bit of SMB 3…

The first instance I mentioned is what I like to call “Pixel Vision”– the lower the pixels, the better the game– and can apply to any system or franchise. For instance, if you look at the Mario franchise, someone with Pixel Vision would likely say that Super Mario Bros. was the best game ever because it’s the oldest and the one that started it all. While this is a valid argument, the reasoning isn’t exactly that sound as it means that anything that shows any sort of good technology or isn’t reminding someone of the old days is an automatic failure that is ruined forever. There may be instances where certain franchises were actually better in the old days (Duke Nukem anyone?), but it’s not true in every case.

Another example of Pixel Vision is any argument where someone says that Pokémon Red, Blue or Yellow are the best because they were the original games. While I prefer that version (which is for nostalgia reasons, but I at least admit it and recognize that it’s probably not the best), it doesn’t mean that it’s the best. I actually kind of think that Gold and Silver are the best.

The second instance is more or less when someone simply looks at any new franchise and is like, “Oh I liked it better when it was X”, which is infuriating to deal with. First off, video games always rip off from other video games. It’s the rule of business. If one genre seems to be in, other businesses are going to try to do something in that mold. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be good, but they’ll at least try it. And sometimes they can do it well enough to hold their own in an argument. Take Street Fighter vs Mortal Kombat. And video games are pretty formulaic when you look at them. Everything is going to have some kind of set of rules to follow– they are programs which are coded in to follow a certain set of instructions, after all. In the best of games, there are variables up the wazoo, but not all games are like that. This doesn’t mean that games are boring just because they follow a formula– far from it– but the problem with the nostalgia goggles in this case is when people refuse to acknowledge this factoid.

The real question is which of these is better? Ah, so conflicted!

As I said before, owning these goggles is normal for everybody. That’s okay. It’s good to look back on things fondly. However, you gotta be able to use them responsibly. Take care of them to make sure they don’t fog things up so badly or they’ll end up blinding you. You also need to make sure that they’re not used for the wrong reasons. Use them when you want to look back fondly but don’t keep them on for too long. Just like nobody likes to hear someone constantly talk about their high school years, nobody wants to hear someone constantly talk about their first video games all the time. To be fair, the latter is something I’m trying to work on to this day.

When it comes to looking back and thinking of the older days, let’s not try to bring down the new because of the old. Let’s try to embrace the new while being fond of the old. Besides, as Billy Joel once sang, “You know the good ol’ days weren’t always good, tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems.” While he may not have been talking about video games, I think it at least still applies.

Until next time, this has been another edition of Fan Service. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow!

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