Nostalgia

I remember the first time I saw the word nostalgia. I was playing Link’s Awakening. There’s a point where you’re being followed by a ghost and had to take him to his home before you could proceed. Once there he used the word to describe his house.

I thought of it because it’s something that seems popular these days. A lot of independent project that have adopted or been given the mantle of “spiritual successor.” Some of these have been wildly successful, like Stardew Valley. Some have been less well received, like Yooka Laylee or  Mighty No. 9.

I was sitting around thinking about some of the things I feel really nostalgic about, like EverQuest, and questioned how useful of a feeling it really is. See, I can go play and play EQ any time I want to, at least for the time being. All the characters are there, I updated my account information at some point in order to tinker with it.

There’s a problem, though, and it’s a big one. A lot of those fond memories are from vanilla. The exploration, the novel experiences. Memories of time spent in one of the low level dungeons, Blackburrow, killing gnolls. Sure, it’s fun to revisit some of those memories but by the time I quit these zones were empty of people. They were devoid of human life; empty shells of the days I remember. It’s not just about the absence of people though.

I remember the experience of these places. Exploring the tunnels, getting killed by mobs I didn’t know where there, or falling through hidden pits. I will never be able to have those experiences as though they were new. The nostalgia googles are powerful though.

I remember the trains fondly now. Massive groups of sometimes high level mobs chasing people to the edge of the zone as they escape death. Absolute death to the lower level players that frequented the upper levels. I’ve since learned though that it was enjoyable at the time because it was all we knew. I’ve had some similar experiences in recent memory, Eureka from FF14, and hated it. It was slow, boring, repetitive. Yeah it was interesting for an hour or so, till I realized exactly how much time it was going to take. Camping a particular spawn area, killing the same critters over and over again, hoping people don’t come in and take the spawns out from under you by being faster/better, dropping trains of hostile mobs on your already struggling group. It’s so easy to forget those things.

I’ve always loved crafting in MMOs, but I despised the EQ crafting because I never could afford it. We didn’t have gathering, everything was purchased from a vendor and placed on the grid in a special crafting station just so. Accidentally add an extra piece, oh well, it’s gone now, most likely along with everything else. Turning in quest items? Better hope somebody didn’t turn in a partial set or random items, who knows if it’ll work properly or not. Might lose all of it, might get half of it back, it was unpredictable.

It’s so easy to remember all the positive times I had, the friends, the dungeons, and forget all the weird quirks and rough edges. At some point it even starts to sound like a good idea again. What happens when you try to copy that “old school” style with a new game though? Is it easy to tell which parts were the good bits and which ones weren’t? I personally don’t think so, what I enjoyed is not the same as what everyone else enjoyed. It seems inherently impossible to capture just the good things and not the bad things because those are different things for different people.

I’m also not who I was then. I’m more open to certain types of PvP now than I was then. I still enjoy the solo experience in small doses but don’t invest large amounts of time into games when I’m playing solo. It’s just not as fun an experience as going through that content with friends. In a way I enjoy the experience of us doing those things together more than the thing we’re doing. It’s a social aspect of play that’s honestly kinda new and foreign to me. Is it, though?

I remember some of the character names and random details of people I played with. My first character was a paladin named Kenidil. A name I still use to this day. I remember in the early days playing with a guy named Lohacla, another paladin. He had attempted to spell alcohol backwards to get his name. I came close to founding a guild with someone called Roma. He did, in fact, go on to found “Mercenaries for Hire” without me. I had gone to my grandmother’s house for the summer and her computer just couldn’t. There was a german lady, whose name escapes me. She struggled with english grammar a lot early on, but improved significantly as time went on.

I don’t know these people, not really. I will probably never talk to them again, and even if I did we would be none the wiser. Alas, I don’t really meet people through games like that any more. All the people I play with these days live with 30 miles of my home. Even when I lived the pug life in FF14, those were one and done chance encounters. I never got to know those people. Heck we barely communicated anything outside of necessity. I personally think that’s a side effect of how games play these days, at least to a point. Back then when a lot of people were in combat you just turned on auto-attack and monitored the situation. There wasn’t a whole lot more to it than that. Now we’re actively moving around to dodge telegraphs and mashing 6-8 different buttons to maintain an ability rotation. Not an activity conducive to communication.

Honestly I don’t know where I’m going with this any more, so I’m going to call it here. Feel free to comment on it. I do enjoy hearing about other people’s perspective on these kinds of things.

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