The Power of Nostalgia in Video-Games

Alex and I were lucky enough to be invited to an awesome event run by Pokémon the other night. It wasn’t anything to do with Pokémon GO, or the various other digital games. It was about the Trading Card Game – through which I first fell in love with Pokémon.

The event was based around the re-release of the original cards, through the XY – Evolutions expansion, all in their 90s glory. Charizard, Nidoking, Mew, Zapdos – they were all there, being pulled out of people’s decks as they played looking just like they did in the mid 90s. I was handed booster pack after booster pack, whilst simultaneously playing the card game, for the first time in almost 15 years, and I was in a constant state of nostalgia. That feeling of tearing open the pack. The smell of the new cards. The excitement of sifting through them all, looking for that elusive shiny Charizard (in my case, at least). And the inevitable ‘discard pile’ that forms as a result. The whole time I felt just like I did when I was 10 years old… but with free beer.

We put out a Live Video on our Facebook, whilst we were at the event. One of the viewers was enticed by that sense of nostalgia, too. So much so that they actually went out, within two hours of us posting the video, to purchase some cards. The jammy bastard bagged himself a shiny Charizard, and refused to trade (you can see the post below, along with me grovelling for a trade).

Nostalgia in its purest form

Here he is gloating about his awesome new card.

Trading Pokemon cards for that sense of nostalgia

And here he is refusing an awesome trade of a shiny MewTwo for his Charizard. Would have thrown in a shiny Caterpie too. Doesn’t know what he’s missing.

Since then, I’ve been playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Sure, it doesn’t get the same coverage as Pokémon GO or Sun and Moon, but I’d say it’s one of the best Pokémon games currently out there. You get to trade cards, find new Pokémon, build a deck, battle against friends and the online community – you can even create an avatar who looks just like you (ish). I’m in love with the game, and it’s all thanks to the power of nostalgia.

Nostalgia, the key to our wallets

But that feeling got me thinking about the power of nostalgia. Bethesda utilised it for the re-master of Skyrim. Activision are banking on it for the success of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. They even used it with PlayStation, in their most recent marketing campaign for the game. Nostalgia is a constant in the video-game industry – even when it’s not directly obvious, or even intended.

Valve recently released an unfinished expansion for Left4Dead, for instance. Now all I can think about is playing the game with the IM PLAYIN guys. My own mind even creates nostalgic feelings of video-games for me, without input from game developers or publishers. Just the other week I went back to playing The Sims because I walked past a house that reminded me of one I’d built, in game, over a decade ago.

Is nostalgia enough?

But is nostalgia enough? I think that, in some cases, it is. For example, Microsoft have been making a number of Xbox 360 titles backwards compatible on the Xbox One. Many of these games will be picked up and played by people because of that sense of nostalgia. Often, it’ll lead to them purchasing more updated versions of those games, too. It’s probably why sequels do so well, in entertainment in general.

Bringing it back to Pokémon – nostalgia was enough to draw in the majority of players to Pokémon GO. Sure, a number of those players might not have much of an experience with Pokémon. But it was the 90s kids that that catapulted the popularity of GO. It was that key audience that brought it to the attention of the masses. And it was nostalgia that brought them there.

I’m all for publishers and developers using that sense of nostalgia to their advantage. There’s a reason that I loved games like Pokémon Red or Blue, The Sims, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Left4Dead. If developers or publishers want to recapture the essence of what made those titles so loved, then that can only be a good thing in my eyes.

But what do you think? Do you want to see remasters and re-releases, or are you only interested in original content? Let me know in the comments below!