Nostalgia - In Gaming and In Life

Recently, more than ever before, I've been feeling incredibly nostalgic. I've been finding myself daydreaming and longing for the easy days of my youth, playing Smash at the Wade's home, eating bologna sandwiches under blanket forts and playing PlayStation. To those of you who may not know, nostalgia is officially defined as, "a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition". We all know the specific feeling of nostalgia, even though it's pretty hard to explain, however people generally have very different nostalgic "triggers", so to speak. For some of us it may be the taste of a snack, it may be chords of a song and sometimes it can even be the brief scent of a family recipe. Music isn't the only media that can be a very powerful "trigger" for nostalgic feelings, with movies and books being reported as one of the strongest ways to invoke them. However, in my personal experience, video games are such a potent cause for me to look back wistfully on past experiences and events, and the trend of "nostalgia gaming" is very common around LAN Mob's customers as well. So with this enduring sensation of nostalgia, I decided to research more about the science of the feeling and why it can personally feel so insanely strong sometimes, especially when it comes to gaming.

Step number one in educating myself on such a strange phenomenon was a trip to Rome's local public library - Jervis. I found a few books with passages relating to the feeling of nostalgia, most notably "In Search of Lost Times" - a french novel written by Marcel Proust.  The novel is not what I particularly expected, after researching that it is a top reference for describing what nostalgia is, as it was fiction. The novel recounts the the life and experiences of the unnamed narrator and he grows up, sees the world and learns about various subjects. Ultimately, I didn't finish "In Search of Lost Times", but I liked what it had to say regarding how people tend to live in the past, creating rose tinted memories that you've never actually experienced. Ultimately, Marcus Proust's extremely quotable exploration of the strength of memory was interested, but not exactly what I was looking for. "In Search of Lost Times" seems to be a fictionalized exploration of the effect nostalgia can have on living your life, but I was looking for something more scientific so I continued my research.

After some searching a bit more I found what I was looking for, "Nostalgia: a Neuropsychiatric Understanding", written by Alan R Hirsh in 1992. According to Hirsh, if one is interested in understanding what nostalgia is on a neuroscience level, it's important to first understand what a "screen memory" is. Screen memories are best described as tricks our brain pulls on us to remember events in a different way. That being said, nostalgia and screen memories are not one in the same, in fact Hirsh states the feeling of nostalgia does not relate to a specific memory, it is in fact an emotional state. Screen memories are "not a true recreation of the past, but rather a combination of many different memories, all integrated together, with negative emotions filtered out". This may seem a bit odd, but essentially nostalgia is utilizing screen memories to conglomerate a multitude of memories, filtering out the negative ones, to make a blanket memory which triggers an emotional state which would then be considered "nostalgia". Using a strong nostalgic memory for me - playing Super Smash Brothers Melee at the Wade's house in my youth - as example; I have done this countless times, playing with all 3 Wade brothers and their neighbors and what not. I fondly remember playing in the afternoon with everybody, getting a rotation going, etc, etc. However, due to the nature of nostalgia, I have one strong blanket memory, despite doing it countless times, and I don't particularly remember getting annoyed or upset at getting my ass kicked (which I did). So for me personally, Hirsh's description makes a ton of sense. If one understands nostalgia this way, it becomes pretty bittersweet. One can never return to the past, especially when those "screen memories" have been tampered with by our own minds, but these memories fuel us to strive to recreate them or appreciate new ones. However, science and psychologists alike have been pin pointing the effects feeling nostalgia can bring, and they are primarily very positive.
The good old days where I would go to Zach's on the weekends and get bodied/trying to learn how to swim...desperately.

There's a lot science has told us about nostalgia. People who had good childhoods generally marry a spouse with similar traits as their mom/dad, it can effect what food you prefer to eat and nostalgia is also one of the main strategies used in our current economy (throwback Coca-Cola and HD remakes of our favorite games!). Science has also told us nostalgia is a good thing, and is a way for our brains to cope with change and issues, reminiscing to a time where things were ultimately simpler. The emotional state of nostalgia has been known to ease one's mind, motivate and think about social connections. Social connections and nostalgia directly go hand-in-hand, whether it be attempting to reconnect with lost social connections due to sentimental yearning of the old connection, or thinking of your favorite activities and looking for the current people in your life to experience it with you. The list goes on. Another huge trend neurologists have examined over the years is that nostalgic triggers are constantly changing with the times. Once upon a time the strongest triggers of nostalgia was fresh baked bread or the smell of pine tress, where nowadays these triggers have become cartoons and - you guessed it - video games.

Not only personally, but I believe many of our readers feel the same way, gaming is a massive force of nostalgia in our lives. Every single positive I've mentioned above directly correlates with gaming, creating and strengthening social connections and even effecting what games we buy (which isn't always a bad thing). It even makes sense when considering "screen memories", as we have played our favorite childhood games a multitude of times but we tend to have a singular blanket memory of our various times sitting down and playing these games. If nostalgia is so heavily tied to social connections and belonging then it makes sense video games would evoke these feelings stronger than almost any medium. It's a very interesting study and I'll definitely be looking more into the study of this emotional state of mind and why I want to play Ape Escape in my parents' family room all the time.

Thanks for reading my relatively random post, and despite understanding how nostalgia works...I'm still feeling nostalgic. However, after all this research I feel a newly found urge to create as many positive memories with the LAN Mob community, and to be a constant rock in their lives where more great memories can flourish. I don't want LAN Mob to become a solely nostalgic memory for everyone, I want it to be a place you can continuously experience and re-experience. That's the dream. What video games do you feel most nostalgic about and why? Let us know!       
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