Sometimes I feel a bit… Old. Especially when I make realisations like this one: I could probably wax nostalgic about waxing nostalgic. Not quite what we’re here for today though. Isey started a conversation, wondering why nostalgia works. He reaches a conclusion in his post that it might be to do with taking a snapshot in time and freezing it as a memento of the surrounding life conditions and the feelings they evoke.

There is a recognition that we can’t — in most respects — freeze time. But in the context of games and the likes of Project 99 to a greater or lesser extent, you actually can. Here, we might be able to take some control. It’s worth taking a look at the Isey’s whole post for additional context, too.

Asheron’s Call. My own usual trip down MMO-memory lane. (Image Source: Asheron’s Call Archive)

I’m not entirely sure Isey’s conclusion holds true for me. At first, I was sure it didn’t actually. But upon further reflection, there might be an element of this.

Sure, I can recall aspects of my life from the times spent gaming. With some very vivid snapshots in time recalled in short-form but otherwise very complete narrative form even. I remember well my room, it’s layout and contents, the anticipation of the loading/patching ‘tubes’ of loading up Asheron’s Call.

I remember when I had moved out into my first flat and was downloading the Shadowbane beta client (All 600+MB of it) on 28.8k dial-up. And then having it not work. (The Shadowbane beta was very rough.)

These experiences were objectively bad. Long waits. Things not working. Yet even though this is something I recognise looking back at those times now? Yeah, I remember them fondly. In a sort of, ‘I was there’ and ‘Look how far we’ve come’ type way. More about the ‘cred’ of being there ‘back in the day’ than anything else, I think.

But that’s the experiences surrounding the games.

What About the Nostalgia in Actually Playing?

One principle of nostalgia that typically holds true for me is that I need to have experienced the specific ‘thing’ (TV show, game, movie, whatever it is) when it was current.

I get essentially nil nostalgic value out of experiencing something from the same timeframe, even if it is almost identical in look, execution and general approach to something else I did experience at the time.

A good example of this is the ol’ Sierra adventure games. I played and loved the ever-loving heck out of the Quest for Glory series.1 There was a time when I was playing through these every year or two. Yet I never played the King’s Quest or Space Quest games when they were current. I once thought to try them out but I bounced off them almost immediately. My love for QFG remained untarnished, but there was no getting on board with KQ and SQ.

The same holds true of MMOs. You couldn’t pay me enough to spend any serious time in Project 99 from all I’ve heard. Two weeks on a single camp? Level percentages in measured in turn by their own percentages? *Gack*

In an alternate timeline where I played EQ instead of Asheron’s Call though I could imagine being all over it. Or at least… I would love to have the option to be all over it. To know it still existed and that I could jump in at any time and revisit the world I’d known.

“…a stroll around the old neighborhood is plenty. It’s like stopping off in the village where I grew up. Sometimes I do that, when I pass by on my way to somewhere else. Take a wander round, see what’s changed. What hasn’t. Yet. Then back in the car and move on.”

Bhagpuss (2019), Two Weeks in Another Camp: Everquest (Inventory Full)

Bhagpuss nailed it for me with this. Although the gaming equivalent might be weeks or a month — this was how I was treating Asheron’s Call before it’s shut down at the start of 2017. It was a place to visit, look around, remember the history fondly. Play a little. Smile. Move on.


  1. Games 1 through 4, at least. QFG5… Well, let’s pretend that one doesn’t exist.


Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.


Rakuno · May 9, 2019 at 3:04 pm

I guess for me nostalgia works because I feel I am (slightly) more mature and have a better critical sense than I did when I was young and didn’t think too much about the game. For example, despite being terrible at jumping in games the Megaman series somehow became one of my favorites. So it was interesting to go play Megaman 1 again and realize that yep, I am still terrible at jumping. Even worse, maybe. But now I also try to think about the enemy patterns to figure when it is the best time to attack or figure out which level to choose first on my own. Same thing with Capcom’s Beat’em Up Collection. It can be fun to see how the way I view the games changed over the years (even if I feel I got way worse at them over the years XD )

In other cases it is because I couldn’t play the games at the time for a reason or another or just didn’t understand what they were trying to do. For instance, I bounced off pretty badly of the original Resident Evil for a lot of reasons. Granted, I have no intention of playing the original again (which kinda erodes my argument) but I do intend to play the Remake which, from what I understand, is pretty much like the original except with better controls and graphics.

There are other games though I will admit even the nostalgia won’t save the game for me. Shogo for instance just didn’t age well. I am not usually a graphic snob but the graphics of that game just… make it unplayble for me now. Which is a shame because I remember them being pretty good for their time.

    Naithin · May 9, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    I didn’t end up covering it in this post, but I know what you mean re: Shogo and there being some things that not even nostalgia can save.

    I once tried to rewatch MacGuyver. (Original, not this… remake)

    I loved it so much as a kid, favourite show by a mile. Nothing else comes even remotely close.

    But I just couldn’t do it. It aged so incredibly poorly that rather than having a pleasant nostalgia-fueled trip down memory lane feeling, it was more like breaking a part of my childhood. That’s very over dramatic, it didn’t really do that of course — the pleasant recollections are still there and very much intact.

    It’s just not something I’ll ever revisit again, and I suppose that realisation was something that needed some processing!

Bhagpuss · May 9, 2019 at 9:36 pm

Iwas fairly sure there was a specific German word for “Nostalgia for something you never experienced” but a fairly extensive google search doesn’t turn it up. Germans create portmanteu words for pretty much everything, though, so if there isn’t one yet, there will be.

There are some very close analogies, particularly the wonderful Portuguese word “Suadade”, which expresses in seven letters something English needs several sentences to describe, namely: “A deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return” (Wikipedia). That seems to me to encapsulate the feeling many MMO players have about closed MMOs a lot more accurately than “nostalgia” does.

There’s also the Welsh word “Hiraeth”, present in various Celtic-rooted languages, which Wikipedia helpfully tells us that Welsh-speakers claim cannot be translated. The long description of things it might mean, though, seems to nail “nostalgia for something you never experienced”: “it implies the meaning of missing a time, an era, or a person. It is associated with the bittersweet memory of missing something or someone, while being grateful of that/ their existence. It can also be used to describe a longing for a homeland, potentially of your ancestors, where you may have never been.”

Longing for a homeland where you may never have been sounds awfully close to wishing you’d played an MMORPG you never did,

Lots of languages seem to have words that try to express these sensations and Google suggests a lot of people are asking about ways to clarify their thoughts on doing it, so I guess it’s a pretty universal experience.

    Naithin · May 9, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    I love hearing about words in other languages that don’t necessarily have a direct English counterpart. I found the German word ‘Fernweh’ which can be translated as the idea of wanderlust, but also the idea of feeling homesick for a place you’ve never been.

    I do think ‘Hiraeth’ fits quite well too, but I think for me at least I’d focus on the first parts you reference: “it implies the meaning of missing a time, an era, or a person. It is associated with the bittersweet memory of missing something or someone, while being grateful of that/ their existence.”

    But the spin I’d add on that (and I don’t know if this would be an intended meaning of the word, or whether I’m now looking for another), is a wish or longing to have been there so that I *could* later appreciate it.

    EQ Classic / Project 99 / etc is something I feel I am missing out on in the sense of those able to enjoy it now — yet I absolutely know that it isn’t for me. That ship has sailed and there isn’t any going back.

Isey · May 9, 2019 at 11:58 pm

Thanks for the link – my comment in response is also post-worthy but wanted to stop by first as I put it together :)

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