Opinion: The Psychology of Nostalgia

Is nostalgia real or is it just an emotionally-charged illusion?

gaming-super-mario-bros-3Nostalgia is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as “homesickness” or “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.” Essentially, nostalgia is a longing for the past.

The past, meaning the time you met your first love, or the time your favorite team won the championship. But, most often, nostalgia refers to a longing for one’s childhood. And for gamers, that emotion is strong, according to this thought-provoking article by Edge Online .

I think nostalgia makes a person worse, not better. While this article aptly describes nostalgia as a pleasure-inducing emotion, with it’s relation to fond memories, I consider this notion slightly hedonistic. Gamers are a strange bunch, but like anybody, they generally think that what used to be is what should be.

How many times have your parents or grandparents scolded you and “your generation” for some nonspecific “crime?” Nostalgia colors the memories, and, as the article says, human beings have a tendency to remember good things and forget the bad. This is what contributes to nostalgia.

That is why it is a dishonest emotion; it lies to you. Maybe the original Super Mario Bros isn’t that good. Maybe you just associate it with fond memories of kinship with friends. Or maybe you hate where your life is now.

Or maybe I’m just too cynical and self-righteous. The article made me ask myself if my flippant attitude towards nostalgia is unwarranted. Maybe it is, but, as of now, I see too much evidence of nostalgia-blindness to think otherwise.

5 thoughts on “Opinion: The Psychology of Nostalgia

  1. Pingback: 30 Years later: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom | Culture Smash

  2. (ciao from Laser Time!)

    I really like this article, it is a good argument and I think, one that people try not to ponder.

    I think it goes deeper. Nostalgia is being used as a core shaper of personality and identity, at least in this case. Gamer nostalgia especially, is being turned into some sort of litmus test as to how genuinely ‘nerdy’ you are.

    It is not uncommon among the nerdy or gamer crowds to hear some incredibly hipster things like ‘I was watching Dragon Ball before it was ever dubbed into English’ (which to be fair, I fall into that category but that is because of the country I grew up in, and not so much a telling marker of my innate nerdery).

    But like you mentioned, it is a colouring of past experience and events that entitled the nostalgic person to somehow wear it like a badge of honour. Its a new way of belonging in certain groups or communities.

    The ‘gamer community’ is a generally new, evolving but young thing. That is, if you look at it from a sociaological perspective. And like all sub-groups, social communities and the like, perhaps this is is one of their ‘belonging’ tests. (whether we like it or not, how many times have I been scrutinised by supposed ‘veteran’ gamers who tried to quiz me on Zelda games to determine my cred – to be honest, I hated the early ones and never finished any of them up until ocarina of time).

    But to be able to share a common ground with someone based on past events is just a general way in which we create our social connections. Now, we can discover that some kids in hong kong also remember playing Mario Brothers and sharing the same frustrations over jumping that huge gap in world 1 with some guy in Reyjkyavik. Its a new way of socialising, at least, online and to an extent offline.

    My point is getting long and I doubt I made much sense. Good luck on the blog and looking forward to reading more.


    • I should have responded WAAAAYYYY earlier.

      When you say “gamer culture is young,” I think you hit the nail on the head. When we’re young, we’re guilty of all kinds of weird, illogical responses and emotions. More so than our adult selves. Like, insecurity. I think it’s that insecurity that we all have as gamers, loving a not-too-respected pastime, that leads to these rose-colored glasses.


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