Do We Enjoy Older Games Simply Because Of Nostalgia? - airbornebovine Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Do We Enjoy Older Games Simply Because Of Nostalgia?

This article was originally published on zeldadungeon.net under the name Keaton, because that is my first name.

I'm open to fair criticism of games that I enjoy. I try to keep an open mind because I realize people have wildly different views of games and what makes them fun to play. I don't believe any game is perfect, and that a healthy dose of criticism is sometimes needed to help keep a game in perspective. The problem is that too many people these days try to tear popular games apart with often baseless criticisms. One such criticism is a real pet-peeve of mine: I can't stand when people try to write a classic game off by claiming players only enjoy it because they're nostalgic for it.

First of all, it's one of the most general statements that can be made in dissent of a game. Anyone who makes said statement does not have to cite specific flaws in the game design, mention aspects they didn't find enjoyable, or provide other reasons for why the game isn't as great as everyone says. While there are those who make an honest effort to go more in-depth with such a criticism, most say something along these lines: "This game might be fun for a little nostalgia, but it's actually terrible." Not surprisingly, a lot of these attacks seem to be aimed at Nintendo. I can't count how many times I've read about how terrible Mario games are, and that nostalgic players are all that keeps the series going. One major flaw with this criticism is how easy it is to debunk. Ocarina of Time is my go-to game for doing just that.

I recently had the misfortune of witnessing Ocarina of Time fall victim to this very criticism. It's a little hard for me to believe, because my experience with Ocarina of Time has shown quite the opposite. I never played Ocarina of Time until only a few years ago, so when I did finally play it, there was nothing I could be nostalgic about. Instead, I discovered a new experience that immediately earned a spot among my favorite games of all time. Again, this wasn't a childhood game I returned to, it was only the second Zelda game I ever played, right after A Link to the Past. You can't simply chalk my enjoyment of Ocarina of Time up to nostalgia, because there was no way for me to be nostalgic about it in the first place.

As confounding as it is for someone to maintain this stance on Ocarina of Time even when I'm right there telling my story, I must admit that there may be some truth in what they are saying. Yes, all this enjoyment from nostalgia babble isn't total hogwash. While I would love to tell this person, "You've never played Ocarina of Time, because anyone who has actually played it would never say that," I may be completely wrong. I know it's hard for us to imagine, but maybe this person genuinely did not enjoy Ocarina of Time. It would be unfair of me to make the assumption that this person never played the game.

Personally, there are a few games I still play now and then for the sake of nostalgia. I recognize the flaws of these games, and sometimes even ask myself why I ever loved them so much in the first place. Sometimes they're older games from a series that I return to just to marvel at how far the series has come. But if you ask me, Ocarina of Time is an immortal classic. My point is, I know what kinds of games that I enjoy for the nostalgia, and which I don't. Just because someone else wasn't able to enjoy a game doesn't mean they should try to ruin it for everyone else by asserting that we're blinded by nostalgia. It's even worse when someone makes this claim about a game they've never played. I implore you; if there is a classic game you don't find to be your cup of tea, please try to consider that other players may have honestly enjoyed it.

So, how do you think nostalgia affects our experiences with video games? Are we too often looking at things through rose-colored glasses, or do plenty of older games stand the test of time? And most importantly, do you think enjoyment only for nostalgia is a fair criticism against games? The comments section is there for a reason! 

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