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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Nostalgia and Video Games: What's Enticing About the Retro World

By BRANDON WILLIAMS - The beauty of nostalgia is knowing a game is still great 20+ years later.

IIf you’re a gamer, then you’re probably familiar with the feeling of nostalgia. Nostalgia is that strong sensation you get when you dust off your old copy of Pok√©mon Stadium, blow on the cartridge, and recreate your childhood team that helped you beat Gym Leader Castle, and it’s immensely satisfying for most gamers.

Nostalgia is frequently brought up in discussions of classic video games, but it doesn’t have to be delegated to a spot in history. By building upon video games of yesteryear, new productions can capture that classic feeling while still updating the content for the modern age.

Once upon a time, video games were produced with less-than-stellar graphics and considerable technical limitations. And they took the world by storm. While video games have made mountains of “improvements” from the days of Super Mario World, contemporary games could stand to benefit from some reintegration of classic trends.

Don’t believe me? Just think back to the iconic features that made retro games so addictive.

Couch Co-Op

Long before the days of online matches and 12-year-olds spouting obscenities through headphones, multiplayer had a drastically different appearance–though the screaming part was more or less the same.

Instead of trying to que into a match, you just pulled up the multiplayer option and could go through missions or engage in combat with your best friend…or your weird cousin, depending on who had a Sega. Either way, video games were still rooted in real life interactions with people that you actually knew, and there was a certain rush to going head-to-head with someone that you couldn’t just mute when all was said and done.

In the world of indie games, this feature is still going strong. Mega Cat Studios regularly produces stellar content with couch co-op content, and research has found that playing a game in-person with another gamer makes bonding significantly easier than it would be with online multiplayer.

Mainstream releases seem to be losing this feature, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Titanfall 2 would be just as immersive and exciting to play on the sofa with your drunk roommate, and imagine how undeniably cool it’d be to play Mass Effect with your significant other as the John to your Jane Shepard. Couch co-op gets a lot of flack for being “outdated,” but spend 10 minutes in a Call of Duty lobby and try to tell me that online multiplayer is somehow an improvement.

Graphic Limitations

It may be difficult to believe, but having hyper-realistic graphics doesn’t inherently make a game more enjoyable to play. In fact, a variety of art styles are what give games their unique personalities. When a video game isn’t 100% HD-rendered, it leaves room for different styles to creep in and really make a game visually stand out from the rest.

Does this art style visually stand out from other PC games on the market today?
Level Art from Mega Cat Studios's game Viking Democracy, coming soon!

Consider this: You probably don’t go out in the world every day and think “Wow, this stuff looks amazing!” Or, if you do, you at least don’t do it before your morning dose of acid. Video games are supposed to be a way to take a break from real life, so why has there been a constant progression toward making games look identical to the real world? I don’t need to see everything at an atomic level to get immersed into a gaming experience, and yes, I’m looking at you, Project CARS.

In the glory days of the SNES, video games were much more concerned with being interesting than looking like a snapshot of reality. Nobody needed millions of pixels for Samus’s armor in Super Metroid because the game wasn’t supposed to look realistic, it was supposed to look interesting. The modern world of video games would be infinitely better off by refocusing on making playable art instead of real world simulators.

So how is this for interesting?
Level Art from Mega Cat Studios's game Viking Democracy, coming soon!

Story-Driven Games

The further video games go from their roots, the more they can find themselves wrapped up in including features and gimmicks that don’t actually contribute to the betterment of the game. God of War is a solid series with a nice story and pretty graphics, but think of what the developers could have done if they hadn’t wasted time putting in an awkward sex minigame.

Not every game needs to focus on story, of course, and I’ve got nothing but love for classic beat-em-ups. For games that do put an emphasis on the story, however, something is lost when a game tries to spread itself too thin. Dragon Age: Inquisition is an infamous example of a story-based game that just tries too hard to do everything at once. Why would Bioware toss in an overly-complicated combat system, when their central narrative is essentially “Stop the mysterious bad guy”? That’s like going to the hospital after being shot and having the surgeon give you a manicure!

Thankfully, story-lovers like myself aren’t doomed to suffer through rehashed and nonsensical storylines forever. Undertale is a stunning example of a game that wasn’t afraid to have retro elements while keeping things fresh. Nobody cared that the graphics weren’t out-of-this-world beautiful or that the combat didn’t leave their blood pumping, because that wasn’t the point of the game. Players came for the story and not to play a fast-paced shooter, so Undertale didn’t try to give them one. If a game is desperately trying to do everything at once, it’s just going to end up disappointing everyone, and nobody needs another Resident Evil 6.

Video games don’t need to repeat old ideas, but there’s something to be said for respecting products that are still fun to play 20+ years later. The companies which most effectively use nostalgia do not rely on it as a crutch, but build upon it to create new and innovative releases. Nostalgia is not holding the video game industry back; it is providing a starting block to grow from.

Mega Cat Studios is an independent video game development studio with a global team. At our core, we are passionate game developers and artists who seek to create meaningful experiences through our games and services. We are all gamers, collectors and enthusiasts first. In a world of cloud storage, download codes and virtual licenses, we are excited and proud to create exclusive artisan collectibles that complements the effort that goes into indie and homebrew development. We love creating games. From retro cartridges to PC & current generation consoles, we want to get make games every gamer can access and enjoy.

KoopaTV also has its own games you can enjoy on this site, though not every gamer is going to find them tasteful.


  1. Wow! I believe this is the first time someone is advertising a product on KoopaTV!

    While it's true video games do build upon nostalgia, such aspects can theoretically be exploited. I would go on the Wii U eShop, and end up seeing alot of platformers, with a similar pixel art (not to say they're all bad; I heard great things on Shovel Knight and several Shantae games).

    I personally believe that, instead of nostalgia being a building block, how about one as a use of comparison, for ways to make such a game better.
    "Is the game straying too far from the story?"
    "Can you sit down with three other people and *have fun?*"

    Either way, great article, and great read! I love seeing more contributions here on KoopaTV!

    1. Well, it's the first time a guest post has been published that directly advertises a product, yeah. We get requests like this all the time, but the majority obviously don't see the light of day because the advertisers don't understand what the hell they're doing, or what we want from them.
      That said, this also was an advertisement for a guy's site, but it's kind of a fake website that immediately died after the article was published. Good guy, though.

      The other times product-advertisements got to KoopaTV is when advertisers send a REQUEST to us (and we give them Request points in the KoopaTV Loyalty Rewards Program, not that they ever build off that). Man Crates did that here, and Luma did that here. Both of their requests were part of a marketing "initiative" to associate their brands with gaming. Those were also about nostalgia/retro gaming. Luma and Man Crates also both promised to share our articles on social media if they liked them (and they did — especially because they're great articles) and they both lied to us about that, so I'm pretty tempted to edit into their articles some shit-talk about their products.


      The thing about indie platformers (not that I would say the recent Shantae games qualify as pixel art... they're freaking HD and look great) is that it's not only building on nostalgia and communicates a message to prospective customers ("we're just like those old games, but new!"), but it's also easier for low-budgets. :o

      "how about one as a use of comparison, for ways to make such a game better."
      Isn't that at least half of what a building block is?

      Anyway, I'm happy that this article was a value-added experience for you. :)


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