Nostalgia Goggles


SONY DSCNostalgia Goggles are a real thing. There are games that I play now, as a young adult, that as a child seemed so complex, long, and difficult – but now seem simplistic. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time took me a month to finish when I was a kid, and I could play it over and over in pure awe. As an adult? I can blow through it in a day and mostly forget about it until I feel like dipping back into childhood. And then there are the games that remain exactly as you remember them. These, for me, are mostly Nintendo titles.

I’ve mentioned on the show before that I came into mainstream gaming later than most. My experiences playing Nintendo games up until I was in college consisted mainly of whatever my friends had and were willing to share (mainly Mario Kart, Smash Bros., and the occasional level of Legend of Zelda, in which my save file was inevitably deleted before my next visit). This always gave them extra weight when entering my nostalgia catalogue.

The first Nintendo system I can clearly remember playing was the SNES. I was eight years old and in Seattle’s Children’s Hospital recovering from surgery. For a kid, this is an absolutely trippy experience, because you know being in the hospital isn’t a good sign, but everyone around you puts forth such an effort to make everything OK and fun, that it actually kind of is (ignoring the literal crippling pain, of course). The SNES was hooked up to a TV in the room I shared with another child, but due to the nature of what he was recovering from, he didn’t play much. I always got the impression he enjoyed watching me play though (based on the bobbing head as the chiptune music played). At this point in my life, I can’t remember all the games that were available to me, but I know I specifically played Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country.

There is a bizarre experience that happens to me whenever I boot these up again, now on an emulator. I try to look at the games objectively, for what they are to me now – the way I look at most other classic Nintendo games that I don’t have Nostalgia Goggles for. They’re both great games, although they have their buggy or absurdly broken levels (Donkey Kong Country’s minecart level comes to mind). But more than that, whenever I start playing, I get transported back to that hospital room, with its bright colors, friendly staff, and sterilized smell. I hear my parents laughing, asking me how I feel, or even reading a passage out of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (something else I discovered during this visit). I see my kid sister trying out a level and getting frustrated. I feel the soft fur of the beanie-baby frog my best friend brought me, sitting in my lap. Those simultaneous feelings of fear, but love and safety, and unexpected fun, always return to me – and all it takes is remembering the over-world music for Mario.

Dissociating these feelings is impossible. And there are other games that can have just as intense an effect on me. For example,  I also know that, no matter how out-of-date the BASIC programming language is, Learn to Program BASIC will always be the greatest educational game out there, because my dad made it, and brought it to my elementary school to teach me and my classmates how to program our own games.

I legitimately couldn’t tell you if any of the most meaningful games for me are actually any good in a critical sense – but they are a part of me. And I think that, in playing the games that others recommend to us because they somehow impacted their lives, we can learn a little more about the people we care about. The beauty of games is the beauty of any art or storytelling. They get tied into what we’re experiencing, and ultimately into who we are.

Have We Met Before? Exploring Replayability in Video Games

In this episode, we discuss replayability in video games. We go into what makes a game replayable, why replayability is important to gamers, the various ways a game can structure its replayability factor, and more!

*Image credit: Game Informer

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VB Appetizer: Voice Acting in Video Games

In this Appetizer mini-episode, Connor, Grant, and Paige are joined by Neil Phelps — an independent filmmaker and actor — to discuss the ins and outs of voice acting in video games. What makes for good voice acting, what voice acting has done for the industry, how voice acting can change a game, and examples of some games that got voice acting right/wrong all come into the conversation during this mini-episode.

*Photo credit: Nerd Reactor

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Getting in Character: How NPC Interactions Can Inspire VR Games

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Virtual Reality (VR) games. Specifically how they’re going to develop in the always innovating game industry. With the release of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PSVR, we’ve seen a fairly robust catalog of VR games start to come together. Many of them are simple — like playing with objects and physics or watching yourself get attacked by sharks — they’re still quite compelling to most people who play them. So, while they’re carving out their niche in the market, VR games will have to evolve to stay interesting.

There is one key area for VR games to expand upon: non-player character interactions.

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Dear Pokemon Sun And Moon

Grant and I finally hopped on the Pokemon Sun and Moon train on Christmas morning. After playing through six of the new Pokemon challenges, I feel like I’m ready to pronounce at least some judgement on what the game does right and wrong. (NOTE: These views do not necessarily reflect VB’s views as a whole. That being said, anyone who disagrees can meet me in the schoolyard, behind the gym at 3pm. Fight. Fight. Fight.)\

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Skateboarding: A Game Genre in Need of an Indie Revival

I miss skateboarding games — specifically, I miss the (good) Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. Although in general, the skateboarding game genre seems to have stagnated. You know what that means? It’s the perfect time for an indie revolution.

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How Gordon Ramsay Could be Gaming’s Savior

My friends, these are truly troubling times in the video game community. Gamers are sick and tired of receiving games that are unfinished, or failing to deliver on expectations, especially after being in development for extended periods of time.

There is only one man who can save us. And no, it’s not Batman, Donald Trump, or Gabe Newell (praise be unto him).

The name of our savior? Gordon Ramsay.

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