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Humanities 2018, 7(4), 123;

Video Games as Objects and Vehicles of Nostalgia

Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies, Department of Film and Literature, Linnaeus University, 352 55 Växjö, Sweden
Received: 20 October 2018 / Revised: 17 November 2018 / Accepted: 22 November 2018 / Published: 25 November 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Nostalgia)
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Barely 50 years old, video games are among the newest media today, and still a source of fascination and a site of anxiety for cultural critics and parents. Since the 1970s, a generation of video gamers have grown up and as they began to have children of their own, video games have become objects evoking fond memories of the past. Nostalgia for simpler times is evident in the aesthetic choices game designers make: pixelated graphics, 8-bit music, and frustratingly hard levels are all reminiscent of arcade-style and third-generation console games that have been etched into the memory of Generation X. At the same time, major AAA titles have become so photorealistic and full of cinematic ambition that video games can also serve as vehicles for nostalgia by “faithfully” recreating the past. From historical recreations of major cities in the Assassin’s Creed series and L. A. Noire, to the resurrection of old art styles in 80 Days, Firewatch or Cuphead all speak of the extent to which computer gaming is suffused with a longing for pasts that never were but might have been. This paper investigates the design of games to examine how nostalgia is used to manipulate affect and player experience, and how it contributes to the themes that these computer games explore. Far from ruining video games, nostalgia nonetheless exploits the associations the players have with certain historical eras, including earlier eras of video gaming. Even so, the juxtaposition of period media and dystopic rampages or difficult levels critically comment upon the futility of nostalgia. View Full-Text
Keywords: nostalgia; video games; independent style; retro aesthetics; historical recreation; simulation; nostalgic dystopias nostalgia; video games; independent style; retro aesthetics; historical recreation; simulation; nostalgic dystopias
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Makai, P.K. Video Games as Objects and Vehicles of Nostalgia. Humanities 2018, 7, 123.

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