From The Atlantic
In the recent bestselling video game Life Is Strange, a teenage heroine gains the ability to rewind time. She uses it to solve problems, address regrets, and return to a period in her life when she was completely carefree. It’s a game that seems deliberately crafted to make the adults playing it long for their own youth.
Which is understandable. From rock bands doing farewell tours (Black Sabbath, Grateful Dead), to reboots of canceled shows (Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Gilmore Girls), nostalgia is a powerful and lucrative tool in pop culture. The Force Awakens is banking on multiple generations of adults who grew up with Star Wars wanting to experience another adventure with their childhood heroes. If a septuagenarian Han Solo can still rattle off one-liners and win firefights, there’s surely hope for everyone. But the medium of video games in particular makes it easier to profit from players’ nostalgia—and it’s threatening to take a major toll on the gaming industry’s creativity and financial stability.
Gaming Like It's 1999
Beyond using nostalgia as a blunt marketing technique, video games as a medium in particular appeal to players’ longing for the past. Clay Routledge, a psychology professor at North Dakota State University who’s made a career out of studying nostalgia, has said gaming lends itself to the feeling more than other mediums because of its immersion factor—games have the potential to be more immediate and personal than other forms of entertainment. Players aren’t remembering the time they watched a hero defeat a bad guy (as in a movie)—they’re remembering the time they beat the bad guy.
Jamie Madigan, who’s written extensively on the psychology of video games, points out that nostalgia tends to be at its strongest when people are reminiscing about socializing. Gaming has always had a communal component to it, and it’s only more so now, with the rise of “Let’s Play” videos on YouTube. (The site’s most-subscribed channel for nearly two years has been PewDiePie, who’s known for his game walkthroughs and commentary.) Last year, Amazon paid more than $1 billion to acquire Twitch, a company whose sole purpose is allowing people to watch other people play video games, as The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer wrote.
It’s by now fairly common knowledge how powerful nostalgia is as a marketing tool, but with video games, there’s another component that makes players more likely to stick with what they know and love. For many, it comes down to time: It’s one thing to watch a 90-minute movie, but squeezing a 30-hour fantasy epic into your schedule is a serious commitment. It’s a bit like taking on a new TV show, but it’s easy to fit an episode or two into an evening, whereas gameplay tends to be less structured. As a result, about 90 percent of people who start a game won’t finish it. And because the average gamer is aging alongside the industry (the typical player is 37 years old), he or she will tend to be mid-career, perhaps with a family. In other words, with more responsibilities and less time to form an emotional connection with a new game.
Interestingly enough, those 37-year-olds are part of the first generation who can feel nostalgic for old games. Gaming doesn’t have much history before the 1980s—with all due respect to Pong, no one reminisces about the time they whiled away hours moving a paddle. So nostalgia for games is a novel phenomenon that the industry’s taken note of. One of the biggest announcements to come out of the 2015 Electronic Entertainment Expo was about a remake of Final Fantasy VII, a beloved 18-year-old game. IGN named it number three on their list of the 11 biggest expo stories from 2015, a list that’s remarkable in that every entry except one is about a sequel, remake, or existing game.
As a child of the 70s and 80s I am agreement that this recent remake bubble we are in is truly killing off the industry.
What say you System Warriors?