Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It can transport you back to a specific place and time or make you feel a certain age or mood. It can also blind you to change and indifference.
I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember, and as we near the dawn of a new generation of gaming, it’s only natural to want to look back on generations past.
One step into my home, and you and I would agree that I’m somewhat of a die-hard Square Enix fan. (Perhaps more Squaresoft than Square Enix.) I own roughly every title it released on the original PlayStation and multiple international versions of several games across three generations. Add on all of the collectibles, figures, posters, wall scrolls, soundtracks, and general “swag,” and … you get the picture.
However, given the company’s recent financial struggles and missteps, one would question why I still support a company that almost refuses to listen to its fans, sets insanely unrealistic goals for itself, and charges ridiculous amounts for 5-year-old iOS ports and shovelware loaded with microtransactions.
The answer actually couldn’t be more simple. I stick with Square because it means so much to my childhood and a majority of my adult life. I grew up with Square’s stories, so it crushes me to even think of turning my back on a company that has molded me into the person I am today.
Simply put, nostalgia has gotten the best of me. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Sure, video games have changed a lot since the old days, and we gamers have been pretty spoiled. We want ultrarealistic graphics, cinematic gameplay, and complex multiplayer. To much complaint, Square Enix tries to cater to this. Do any of these things really matter? Is it not enough for games to just be a form of entertainment and escapism?
It’s this sort of backlash that reveals the negative side of nostalgia: It can literally hold us back. To succeed in this industry, it’s important for developers to move forward with the times. For Square, it might not be necessary to figuratively rewrite the entire playbook, but to stay relevant, it’s a part of business. By constantly living in the past and refusing to give the “new” a chance, we’re not only hurting ourselves as gamers but also the people who create these experiences for us.
Granted, I still buy what appeals to me just like anybody else, and I’m pretty annoyed with many of the decisions that Square Enix has been making lately. But I have faith that it will turn itself around. I have hope that this next generation will allow the company to reestablish itself as as the revered developer it once was and remind us all (or at least myself) of why we loved it in the first place. But we need to give it the chance to do so.
With all of the negative press going around about the next generation of gaming making some big changes concerning social media, Internet connectivity, digital-rights management, and so on, it’s easy to forget where we came from. We all became gamers because something or someone introduced us to an experience that connected with us on a deeper, more personal level than some TV show or summer blockbuster. It made us want to live through more of those experiences and participate in the magical moments on our television screens or in the arcade.
And that’s the thing with video games. They’ll always keep me coming back regardless of what gimmicks or technological advancements they may have. It’s not a matter of Xbox versus PlayStation. “Brand loyalty” isn’t a thing to me. It’s a matter of buying experiences that you will love and enjoy. It doesn’t have to be easier. I don’t need Kinect to turn my Xbox on, but I do need a reason to turn it on at all. The games matter.
I don’t blame Square Enix for its lack of focus on its core audience and people like me. The Western market is huge, and appealing to it — while maintaining Japanese influence — is undoubtedly tough to do. We might not ever see a Final Fantasy VII remake happen, but in all honesty, that’s OK. As long as Square Enix gives me reason to fight and save the world, I’m forever a fan.
Just keep those god-awful microtransactions away from me.
What is “nostalgia” for you? What made you a gamer? Let me know, and while you’re at it, here’s my epitome of nostalgia.
Chris Rodriguez is a gamer, writer, and sucker for Japanese role-playing games. He writes for ingloriousgamer.com, and you can follow his love for chicken strips and see pictures of his cat on Twitter @binarybox.