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Nostalgia in the games industry… May 8, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Can’t say I’m hugely surprised by this report here from the Guardian about…

Earlier this week, Activision announced the latest title in its multi-gazillion-selling Call of Duty series. Subtitled Infinite Warfare – a level of titular hyperbole only previously explored by Marvel films and pay-per-view wrestling events – it takes the action into the far future, and more importantly, into space. The teaser trailer is a bewildering opera of explosions, zero-G dogfights and sociopathic astronaut melee combat – so it should have dominated online discussion among shooter fans for at least a few hours.
But Activision did something unexpected. It announced that an intricately remastered version of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare would be shipping with special editions of the game. While all subsequent Call of Duty titles have longingly harked back to this absolutely seminal FPS title, none so far have more-or-less relied on it for a publicity push. The problem is, Modern Warfare seemed to attract more excitement and discussion than Infinite Warfare. In that moment, it’s arguable the first-person shooter, as a big budget, mainstream concern, crossed over into the nostalgia industry.


In music, this happens all the time with bands. At some point, touring becomes not a way to test and celebrate new material, but to appease long-running fans who just want to hear the hits. Sure, they’ll still grudgingly buy the latest release and may concede there are one or two good tracks, but what they really want is that 180g vinyl reissue of the group’s classic album, complete with unreleased tracks and limited edition art card inserts. Eventually, fans of legacy rock acts don’t really want the music anymore, they just want to be young again.

That point about music is well made. So often music is about the moment lost as distinct from the moment one is in. Or perhaps it is a weird mixture of both, a merging of present inflected by past. And so little surprise that for those who play games it is the ones that they liked when first they started that attract them.

I was late to all this, well into my twenties when I started playing. I was also, as noted here before, hobbled by being a Mac user at a time when there really were just a handful of games. But I’ve mentioned before how indelibly the traces of those games are imprinted on my consciousness. F/A-18, Tetris, Marathon, Civilisation 1, II and III, etc, etc. It’s surprise that they would function in a similar way. And I’ve also noted the impulse to buy up those games from previous times – and the lengths people go to to reconstruct OS environments so that they can play (I’ve got a Windows emulator on my Mac for just that purpose). I’m not alone.


1. sonofstan - May 8, 2016

Slight tangent – had an interesting conversation yesterday about the difference between straight revivalism and a sort of alternative future past approach to making music. Examples cited were the soundtrack to Drive, which reimagines where ’80s synth music would have gone had certain things not happened, and Norwegian Black Metal, which imagines that Black Sabbath stopped at ‘4’ and metal grew another head from there.
I was thinking about Black Mountain – as I have been a lot – and how it simultaneously sounds like it was made in 1974 but doesn’t sound like anything actually made in 1974 – it’s a weird sort of alternative world anachronism.

Don’t know anything at all about games though.


Michael Carley - May 8, 2016

That sounds like a third category to go with people who carry on a tradition and those who say everything stopped in 19XX. The first two of these sound valid to me, the third is usually a way of telling interesting musicians that the tradition which has been appropriated from them is no longer their own and they should stop listening to anybody else (c.f. white blues revivalists telling Black Americans they should be playing note perfect covers of Muddy Waters solos).


gendjinn - May 9, 2016

Music as shibboleth.

Music is perhaps the most fascinating human activity – drumming patterns on stalagmites/stalactites date to 30kya (at least). David Lewis-Williams has some interesting hypotheses on the emergence of human consciousness, music being one of the oldest artifacts of human culture we can find solid evidence for.

I’ve noticed that right around when you have children the ability to keep up with music takes a dramatic hit. Even with Last.fm, Pandora, Spotify and two Amoeba record stores I lost a couple of years (fortunately it was one of those Tony Wilson lulls so it was easier to catch back up).


WorldbyStorm - May 9, 2016

That’s very true re Black Mountain, I like the album and it’s an odd mix. Sort of prog and metal and a post-punk vibe and…

That’s true too re Drive. I like the OST to that.

I hate the idea of encasing anything in amber. I can’t see the problem with liking the old and the new. And I’d also argue that some of the most interesting stuff is done in the overlaps and margins between genres and traditions.

That’s fascinating gendjinn re one of the oldest activities. Consciousness is also fascinating, how it developed, what it means, what it is – and indeed is it shared by any other creatures on the planet in the way that humans understand it.


WorldbyStorm - May 9, 2016

Just on having children, and I’ve only the one, I found for a year or two I got very tired of music when she was 1-3 – but then I got tired of everything! What’s a real pleasure now is seeing her musical taste at 8 develop (and films as well), a sort of mixture of her own and then influences that she’d hear at home.


2. paratroopa5.1 - July 12, 2016

I actually have branched out so far when it comes to games as I’ve aged. However I can’t deny… Final Fantasy and Pokemon still suck me in despite how good or bad the next installment may be. It’s really cool to think about video games as a nostalgic medium in the vein of music.

I think there’s definitely some things we need to let go, but evolving as a medium is about keeping what works and learning what doesn’t. However I don’t think it’s all from the distant past. There’s some stuff now we could move past… (like the toxic communities in a lot of multiplayer games)


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