Retro gaming

A summer of nostalgia

Retro gaming suits the summer well. The summer is a time of comfort, when we relax and take our holidays. I’m noticing more and more people in the gaming community are using catch up on their backlog, or return to what they really enjoy playing.

Summer is the perfect excuse for me to combine two favourite experiences – playing games cooperatively and replaying games I once enjoyed deep in the throws of nostalgia.

Gaming and solidarity

Nostalgia is the main reason I find myself returning to this idea every summer in particular. This time last year I started a weekly cooperative replay of Final Fantasy 9 with my closest friend.

We have a long history of playing games together. It taps straight back into the old way we all used to play games before the internet. Back when we were kids you learnt how to play games by watching others in the room, observing your friends (and competitors) skill. You carefully watched where your friends succeeded and faltered. Your gaming skill blossomed not under your single, solitary effort, but weeks and months of shared rumours, hints and collaboration.

Far from the image people having of gaming being purely about navel gazing. Gaming – then and now – was always about a shared purpose. This might be from the way we play games together, or talk about our separate experiences, it’s rarely something that we as gamers shut away and never talk about. This sense of shared purpose might be why so many of us are still so fascinated by video games despite being encouraged to move on from them.

To this day sharing a game, even a single player game with another is still my favourite way to experience it.

Revelling in nostalgia

Going back to old titles that you admired in the past has its disadvantages though. Each year I find myself returning to titles that I loved hugely as a child and find more often that not that the games I held in such high regard fall ever so slightly under the scrutiny of my older mind.

Every so often though games stand up as proudly as they did before. The games that fall under the greatest scrutiny are those we played as children. Similarly I enjoy returning to the games I played as a teenager when I was starting to identify as a gamer. The era at which this happened for everyone is different, but mine was during the original Playstation era, when I was being raised on RPGs such as Final Fantasy VII. Replaying the games that I enjoyed from this area for me is a two-fold pleasure – the experience of playing the game again, and the pangs of nostalgia that come from reminding yourself of how much you appreciated a game the first time around.

Which brings me to Final Fantasy IX. A game I did not widely understand or appreciate at the time. Many of my problems with the narrative came from the “re-imagining focus” of the game. How poorly this came across to me upon playing the game for the first time. How could I know about the importance of crystals and other old Final Fantasy tropes, if Europe was not to even see the games that Final Fantasy IX references until far after it was released. As a result I had a very muted response to Final Fantasy IX upon its release here, truthfully the well-trodden medieval setting was a disappointment after the cyberpunk sizzle of Final Fantasy VII and VIII.

So playing Final Fantasy IX with another person (particularly someone who enjoyed it at launch more than I did) was about tapping into that very old way of playing a game. We helped each other through it, imparting what our favourite moments were, working through narratively and what didn’t. We took turns to play, chuckled and laughed and made an evening of every session. I will now always associate Final Fantasy IX with that happy and successful replay, buoyed up by the positivity of another.

We start Final Fantasy VIII next, and our roles are reversed. I am more comfortable with that game, as it made more of an positive impression on me (despite the bobbins involved in the story) her not so much, but the journey to find out how long that game holds up to each of us will be just as memorable.

4 replies on “A summer of nostalgia”

Neat story! I actually did something similar recently. When the HD version of Shadow of the Colossus released, I played it in this same sort of co-op manner with Jonah (my brother for any strangers reading this).

We had both played the original independently, but neither of us had completed it (though I had seen the ending when a friend finished). Because of the way it’s divided up, it was easy to swap who was playing after each colossus.

It was a very nostalgic experience playing that way. We did a similar co-op playthrough of Ico a few years before the HD collection. I highly recommend this kind of experience to people not familiar with it, particularly for these older gems. The shared experience really makes the whole playthrough memorable. 🙂

I don’t get this type of co-op experience nearly as often as I’d like anymore. The above mentioned play through’s of ICO and Shadow were a lot of fun (and helped with the anxiety I get playing through Shadow).

I rarely finish games when I’m not playing them this way.

Funnily enough Shadow of the Colossus was also played by my friend and I.

You’re both right it’s a perfect game for that sort of thing. It also gave me the confidence to complete it myself subsequently (I also get pretty anxious when playing that game Jonah) thankfully all sorted now 😉

That’s the great thing about films and books and games! Taking a look back at things you’ve experienced before, and with other people, can really bring into focus aspects that you missed or just didn’t even think about during your first time through.

In relation to big games like the Final Fantasies, because there is just so much stuff packed into them, from locations and characters to dialogue and side quests, going through with a wingman could really help you see lots of little things from a different point of view.

Also, some help alleviating the boredom of those level grinds ain’t no bad thang!

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