Why people love playing childhood video games

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Max Payne is a 2001 third-person shooter video game. (Photo: IGN)
Playing video games one used to play during childhood makes one nostalgic. But why are people inclined to play video games that are 20 years old, especially when they have access to all the glitz and glamour of modern games?اضافة اعلان

Playing older video games — also known as “retrogaming” — has grown from a niche hobby to a common practice in the gaming world today. One reason may be that as time passes, there are simply more games that can be considered retro. Still, this does not explain why people have a strong desire to play older games. So, by way of explanation, one thinks of nostalgia.

Nostalgia is often triggered by a yearning for our past selves, according to pshychologist Valentina Stoycheva. When people think back to their younger selves, most remember a much simpler, more relaxed time, with fewer responsibilities and the freedom to explore new things. 

If you ask gamers when they began playing video games, most will say that they started at a very young age, like long-time Jordanian gamer Amal Rashid, who told Jordan News that she was about five or six the year her father bought her her first game. Because of the early age most start to game at, video games become a portal into one’s childhood, bringing back not only the positive emotions elicited by the game, but also the positive emotions of being young.

Clive Barker’s Undying is a 2001 horror first-person shooter video game. (Photo: Gamer.ru)

This view is shared by Rashid who said that she often feels the same emotions while playing video games as she did when she was a child: “getting thrilled and excited about reaching a certain level or final level”. The “tracks and the scenery” also evoke feelings of nostalgia for her.

Since nostalgia may elicit positive emotions, it can also be used to escape negative feelings. When under stress or feeling upset, people may use video games as a reminder of better times, like their childhood. Nostalgia was proved to have a positive effect on mood, as it increases “self-esteem, feelings of social connectedness, optimism about the future, and perceptions of meaning in life”, according to psychologist Clay Routledge.

Nostalgia has also been linked to transitional periods in a person’s life, according to Stoycheva. Objects from someone’s past can occasionally create a sense of nostalgia purely based on the significance they had during a transitional period. One such period could be the transition from being reliant on a caregiver, like a parent, to becoming more independent and self-sufficient. Video game consoles or video games themselves are “transitional objects” since, for many people, playing them was one of the first activities that they independently did in their childhood.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a 2003 action-adventure video game. (Photo: Polygon)

Playing video games can be difficult, especially for beginners, so it is often the case that challenges need to be solved independently. Parents did not know how to beat the final boss in a game, so unlike most other issues, it had to be solved through trial and error. Winning eventually leads to a rewarding feeling that can then be triggered through playing that video game years later.

Jordanian gamer Nasser Anssari who started playing video games 30 years ago, said that gamers “had to figure out how to beat   different obstacles on our own, and those epiphanies were filled with   a sense of accomplishment”.

It could also be the case that older video games are simply good products, so people enjoy playing them even after long periods of time. But it may go deeper than that, with nostalgia influencing gamers, if only subconsciously, driving them to play the games of their youth.

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