Nostalgia in the games industry… May 8, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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.