Monday, August 4, 2014

Nostalgia is a Harsh Mistress

Both Izlain and Wilhelm have been writing about nostalgia and how it clouds our judgment when it comes to our memories of the past, particularly when it comes to the games of our youth.  Both of them remark on how fragile that warm feeling of nostalgia is when you confront it with the sharp edges of reality. 
"The trouble with nostalgia is that it’s a fleeting thing, and it’s something that’s better left in the annals of your mind."  Me vs Myself and I
"That driving sense of nostalgia often doesn’t last long beyond the point when you return to the time/place/song you were nostalgic for."  The Ancient Gaming Noob
As I commented on Izlain's blog, nostalgia is a filter that selectively removes all the bad pixels from your memory.  When all you have access to are the good parts, you can remember anything fondly.  Maybe we'll eventually become nostalgic about Blaugust 2014 - the year it all began, who knows?

On his blog, Izlain challenged us to put nostalgia to the test and see if our memories could stand up to the harsh light of unbiased scrutiny. (Izlain's Challenge)  Here is my response:


I just found a rom of “Suicide Express” for my C-64 emulator and was instantly transported to my school days.  I mean, it was exactly like that moment in Ratatouille when the critic takes the first bite of zucchini and is crying in his mother’s kitchen.  With the first notes of the soundtrack I was there; in my basement bedroom with the swinging fluorescent shoplights and the table made from a door on two sawhorses, loaded with computer junk and a dot matrix printer attached to my commodore 64.

Now, the actual play of Suicide Express is a bittersweet experience of twitch gaming and unhelpful visual cues coupled with indecipherable feedback upon death, but as long as that haunting melody comes out of the tv speakers, coupling desperation with the slimmest golden thread of hope, you have to hit the continue button.  It's almost as if the audio effects of your armaments and the explosions of the aliens mixed with the music to create a duet of sorts, as if your play was contributing to the music.  This was the original guitar hero.

On the other hand Unreal Tournament from the late 90s still delivers a tight FPS free-for-all experience on very close arena maps.  My favorite was the map drifting in orbit above the earth, with  opposing towers offering excellent sniper positions.  I could easily give myself vertigo by looking down to the planet or off into space.  Just keep your eyes on the choke points.  A well-placed hit by the rocket launcher sent players spinning off into the void.


There is no question in my mind that U2's Joshua Tree and Unforgettable Fire albums remain a couple of the greatest CD's ever made.  Notwithstanding their commercialization later in their careers, here they still had some of the raw edge of Blood Red Sky with some of the more introspective experimentation that was never meant for radio.  I had them on repeat throughout my time in the Philippines.

And while Chris de Burgh's Man On the Line had many well-made narrative songs, his weakness for sappy/goofiness seems a little awkward to me now.  I still appreciate his ability to weave a story with his lyrics, but Patricia the Stripper was probably a bridge too far.


As a buddy cop film, the original Lethal Weapon (1987) absolutely stands the test of time.  With Riggs genuinely going crazy and Murtaugh a sympathetic point of connection for the audience, I still enjoy watching it.  On the flip side of things, Miami Vice was the epitome of cool when I was a kid, but now just looks like it's full of posturing to my jaded eyes.


So there you go, two from each category.  Not always the best, and certainly not the worst.

Even though it is a temporary break from gaming, this is my fourth installment in the Blaugust challenge to post once a day for the 31 days of August

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