Nostalgia – the Romance of Memory, 26 November 2015

The other day I set up an old Nintendo 64 for my son. It was one of the first gaming consoles to feature (almost) exclusively 3D games, pioneering features common today, things you damn kids will never appreciate. Get off my polygonal lawn, whatever the fuck a tween is! (Whatever it is, I hope it hurts).

You see, I wanted to show my son what I enjoyed as a kid, and hoped to share that excitement with him, the kind of excitementI felt I played Super Mario 64 for the first time. The joy of flipping around and flying and destroying large fucking lizard… reptile… whatever the fuck Bowser is. We booted the game up and started a game, and started playing.

It was quite fun, the familiar sights and sounds. The joy, in some instances in our lives, the way we feel about certain songs and films, we sometimes love it more for the memory of the happiness it once brought, tying it to a prior happiness in a vain

The other day I set up an old Nintendo 64 for my son. It was one of the first gaming consoles to feature (almost) exclusively 3D games, pioneering features common today, things you damn kids will never appreciate. Get off my polygonal lawn, whatever the fuck a tween is! (Whatever it is, I hope it hurts).

You see, I wanted to show my son what I enjoyed as a kid, and hoped to share that excitement with him, the kind of excitementI felt I played Super Mario 64 for the first time. The joy of flipping around and flying and destroying large fucking lizard… reptile… whatever the fuck Bowser is. We booted the game up and started a game, and started playing.

It was quite fun, the familiar sights and sounds. The joy, in some instances in our lives, the way we feel about certain songs and films, we sometimes love it more for the memory of the happiness it once brought, tying it to a prior happiness in a vain attempt to hold on to some measure of it, of the happiness we had as kids.

So when my son showed no interest in Super Mario, I said, Alright god dammit, I’m going to show you the greatest game of all time – The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time, widely considered the best game of all time. And not just back when it came out, but within the last few years, even Watchmojo listed it as the best game of all time – so it really was great, game changing, and revolutionary. So we sat down to play.

The familiar music came on and it touched that special part of the brain, the kind reserved for songs from our childhood, the alphabet song,Mozart and Fur Elise, like Star Wars, the part of our memory that doesn’t judge or evaluate it the way we judge and evaluate as adults.

We’ve got a new Star Wars film coming up, and by all accounts it’ll be pretty awesome. But then the trailer comes out – the first thing that rattled people’s minds was the black stormtrooper. I don’t think there’s any racism in that reaction, at least not for the most part, but the response to a change – a change most of us didn’t like to begin with. And then there’s a lightsaber with a ridiculous little hilt! How stupid! Yet the first Star Wars film had a major character that was basically a walking, unintelligible lump of hair. And the Empire Strikes Back had a green muppet who taught a farm boy how to lift a spaceship with his goddamn mind. But a lightsaber with a hilt? Blasphemy!

Again this is the difference between evaluating things as a child instead of as an adult. And the memory of this happiness is tinged with the memory of an actual happy time, when something new is celebrated for its newness, not because it broke with tradition – and what is nostalgia but the celebration of familiar because of it was once amazing because it was new and different.

And from playing Ocarina of Time with my son – one of my favorite games of all time – I realized that, though it was new to him, it would never mean the same thing to both us. To him, his memory of playing Ocarina of Time will just be time he spent with his dad, who’s 30 years old! Uh! and trying to be cool. And for me, I’ll just have more good memories to associate with that game, as time I got to spend with my son.

 

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