No Bad Memories


The following text is a reproduction of the slides shown during my talk entitled “No Bad Memories.” Please note that due to the nature of the live presentation format, some content and context may be missing from the text below. Nevertheless, I hope it will serve as a helpful reference or reminder for those who attended to talk. The original slides are also available here.


NO BAD MEMORIES (Or, Video-game nostalgia and the academic and popular discourses that shape it)

A talk for Critical Proximity 2014

San Francisco, CA

by Rachel Simone Weil

University of Texas


Today, I’d like to share some thoughts about video game nostalgia.

I’ll also offer some working methods that I hope might be useful to you along with examples from my own practice as a designer and games researcher.


Svetlana Boym writes, “It is up to us to take responsibility for our nostalgia and not let others ‘prefabricate’ it for us. The prepackaged ‘usable past’ may be of no use to us if we want to co-create our future.”

(“Nostalgia and Its Discontents,” 2007)


As critics, we should consider our “prepackaged” video game past and what it means to be nostalgic for it.


What’s wrong with video game nostalgia?


Nostalgia for twentieth-century games

  • requires homogeneity and the discarding of non-conforming histories.
  • strengthens allegiance to the gaming canon, which in turn deflects nuanced criticism.
  • patrols the borders of who is considered a “real” gamer.
  • can serve as a rejection of contemporary political issues.

Nostalgia defers perceived responsibility.


…which is an understandable perspective.

Most people don’t like having their communities and identities torn down and condemned for reasons that are out of their control.


It’s complicated! And that’s OK.


I propose the following working methods.

  • Remember your memories.
  • (Or invent new ones.)
  • Balance rebellion and reconciliation.

Keep in touch with me; I’d love to hear from you!

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3 thoughts on “No Bad Memories

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