A blast from the past

Nostalgia is essentially a kind of homesickness for a specific place, or, in the words of scholar Sean Fenty, a “yearning to return to a place—to a state of being.”

Imagine this, It’s a Friday night, you and your sixth-grade buddies assemble at Amey’s place. He’s the only guy in the society who has a PS2. You are jealous but also happy that Amey is generous enough to let all of the boys play at his place. Snacks are ready, the couch is set. You all settle down and diplomatic agreements are made. It is decided: whoever loses has to give up the controller. Game on the roster is Burnout. You wreak havoc on the streets of LA, blazing the entire competition and you feel like a champ. The rush you get will be remembered and cherished for a lifetime.

We all grew up playing at least one video game we adored. Everyone has different tastes – if someone preferred racing you would find them kicking their opponents off their bikes in Road Rash, or you would find them trying to escape the grasps of cops in Most Wanted. If they preferred fighting, you’d find them ripping limbs off their opponents in Mortal Kombat, defusing bombs in Counter-Strike or just absolutely owning everyone in Contra. For some of us snowflakes, their escape was Pokémon, if they were rich enough to own a Nintendo back then that is.

Gaming is an amazing thing. My fondest memories include my friends barging into my room and watching me play Call Of Duty, and I remember them being awed at the graphics my machine could churn out. I miss hanging out with my buddies at the “PlayStation”, paying 40 bucks an hour, bunking classes, having no care in the world. I miss absolutely wrecking my friends at COD, always being on the receiving end of their expletives. My earliest memories always include a keyboard or a controller in my hand with my mom screaming in the background begging me to come downstairs and have dinner. 

Gaming was more than just passing time for me, it was an escape for me. Where I couldn’t win in real life, couldn’t be of any use in real life, these virtual worlds made me feel home, made me feel that I could actually do something.

I would describe games as therapeutic, an escape from the burdens of the reality only virtual band-aids can fix. Who doesn’t want to feel like a badass after a long day? Boss sucks the life out you? Slaughter the boss at the end of the dungeon you know to balance things out.  

Speaking of, do you remember the games you used to play as a child?

Obviously, who can ignore the gaming’s biggest icon, the face of innocent-looking Italian plumber adorning his cute red cap who dominated our televisions for more than a decade. Your friendly neighborhood princess-rescuer, Mario.

Mario defined a generation of gamers, inspired millions of kids. Every one of us tried to traverse this epic side-scroller game, fighting monsters, finding shortcuts, trying to collect that dough, defeating monsters  and ultimately try to help the damsel in distress, Princess Peach, who for some reason always happened to be trapped at the castle Mario wasn’t invading.

Those colorful graphics, the chimes of collecting coins, the sounds of defeating an enemy, the absolute joy of defeating your sibling. These are the sounds of my childhood, chiming in and reminding me of the better days. Back when my life goals revolved around defeating a particular boss or absolutely slaying my friends in Mortal Kombat, those carefree times of going to a friend’s house who had a PS2, taking turns and playing Mario Kart, and just simply having fun.

These games defined a generation, it’s incredible to me that there is this generation of people who I can relate to because we played the same videogames, had the same experiences growing up. These videogames bridged a gap between us, filled a void, allowed us to connect and obviously reminiscence of the days long gone.

What’s even more amazing is that you can relive those past memories, while you can’t go back to recess with your fourth-grade buddies, you can pop in an old game cartridge and return to a virtual place from your past. This permanence is what binds us to our beloved titles. Though we grow up and change, video games stay constant; an ever-present time capsule that we can re-enter at will. This is the beauty of videogames.

I feel like video game music is underrated. There is so much to it that we try to comprehend. If you’re like me and have spent the better half of your life gaming, you would understand that it is something intangible that has been stapled to the identity as of what you love to do. It evokes emotion on demand, it is powerful.

The witch sound in Left 4 Dead still keeps me up at night, you know something is about to go down when metal boss music starts playing, you know you are safe inside four walls when a soothing melody plays when you reach a safehouse. Music in videogames not only adds to the ambiance of the game, but it also gives an identity to it which will be remembered by millions of gamers for years to come.

Games have always been a part of popular culture, they have always dominated screens, won hearts. Games make you live a story, you experience what your character experiences. Games make you feel emotions, you cry for the death of mere pixels, you feel joyous for their victories. It is an amazing sensation.

Games have this another dimension of immersion no other media have, you see a movie through the lens of the director. You see what they direct, there is no scope of exploration beyond their vision. Characters are dressed by make-up artists, dialogues are linear.

Games are multi-dimensional, you are the sole person controlling the landscape. Do you want to explore that particular part of the map? You are free to do so. Want to be rude to the merchant? Go ahead. Dress up your character? You’re the boss! Games trigger nostalgia even more strongly than toys because we invest more emotions in playing them—heightened feelings of competitiveness, frustration, joy, and pride. I could go on and on, but oh well.

Now, hold my Mountain Dew while I try to find this damned princess in yet another castle. 

  • Gunjan Mane

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