Nostalgia Bias

rant-ish post here…

I was at the US/Canada women’s hockey game last night, quite a good show. It was at full capacity and about 90% women. Normally when I got to any sporting event, the lineup for the men is extremely long – this time I was the only person in the washroom. Felt odd.

The rink we were in was the OHL (top junior level in Canada) and I went to quite a few games as a child with my grandfather. I’ve also played in the rink quite a bit. I remember it being bigger, with a specific set of sounds and smells. I’m not saying that my memory is accurate, simply that it was an odd feeling of broken deja vu. I expected a certain experience and got something different – still good, just different.

We tend to use nostalgia as a safety blanket of sorts, to be wrapped in the familiar. Folks trying to make money certainly do capitalize on this – the mini-NES, pretty much every movie remake, heck Stranger Things is pulled right out of the glamorized childhood. Which is all fine and dandy when you only look at the good parts. You may listen to a playlist of the “best songs of the 70s” but that is ignoring every bad song that was also released. We look at the gold standard and just cut and paste it again.

Video games are there too, what with progression servers on EQ, or emulated UO realms. They purport to be clones of the time, but the reality is that these are nigh unplayable today if they took their original ruleset. WoW Classic had to rejig a pile of rules to fit modern game expectations. The entire FF series has been relaunched more times than Skyrim at this point… and all sorts of quality issues abound.

But nostalgia relates to more than the game itself, but the idea of a relationship with the developer. There was a time, believe it or not, where you could just talk to the developers of a game! Or that they wanted to talk to you. Lord British’ infamous speech / firewall death is a great example of that perception of “one of us”, or even Brad McQuaid’s approach to community development. The Blizzard mantra of “it’s done when it’s done” actually meant something. There was an agreement between the players that the devs put something out, and we’d just assume it was good.

Then we got horse armor. I’ll pick on this particular event, because it best exemplifies the act of a developer moving away from being gamers and into the mechanics of game development. When development matured from a passion to a business.

From that point forward, we’ve had the DLC revolution, the MTX/F2P craziness, and the pre-order shenanigans to get the most amount of money out of gamer pockets as possible. But why? How can indie studios be “successful” in today’s age, where the AAA studios can’t seem to launch anything without it looking like Anthem? The problem is us.

We keep rewarding the behaviour. Gamers continue to pre-order. They continue to support companies that have absolutely horrendous practices, holding out hope that they will change. Why would they? They only want your money, and once they have it, then don’t really care much past that point. “Oh, next time they will actually do what’s right.” Please, let me know where this actually occurs. Let me know when “positive messages” to a cancerous tumour had an actual effect, or that “thoughts and prayers” actually did something.

There’s a false equivalency that says gamers supporting bad company practices are as guilty as the companies themselves. That’s certainly not true, just like the getaway driver for bank robber didn’t actually commit the crime. Are gamers an accessory if they have knowledge and still make the decision? Yes, that’s rather clear as well. If a company made the absolute best cookies in the world, but you knew that they needed to use kittens to make the machines work, a lot of people would still buy them. If they used children instead?

Yes, it sucks that the things you enjoy are often made by people with no actual morals or ethics. Yes it sucks that the things you used to love are now controlled by capitalists who will do anything to make a dollar. But none of these things are actually required to live. This isn’t a choice between heating a home and putting food on the plate.

But what about the employees? Won’t they lose their jobs? Do you think any doctor goes “well, it would be a shame to amputate this leg, the toenails are painted so pretty, let’s just let that cancer be ok?” Should you give time to see if there’s a treatment that can be applied? For sure, and it’s up to gamers to determine when that clock is due. People take chemo before giving up after all, they fight until the last edge. But there’s a point where chemo/treatment stops working and people simple have to accept their fate. And good golly does it suck to lose someone to an indiscriminate disease, through no fault of their own. And it sucks to have to give up a part of our past, the joy that a game can bring.

Nostalgia only gets you so far. At some point, reality hits and decisions need to be made. You want things to change, be that agent of change. “Thoughts and prayers” don’t count.

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