Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nostalgia Explained

In my post about timewalking, I touched on how revamping old dungeons and 'updating' them for current content was one of the ways Blizzard has tried to accommodate people who want to revisit some of their favorite old dungeons. I also mentioned that I'm really not a fan of this method.

pictured: not me

Now, I understand the arguments in favor of revamping dungeons. One big one is the stories in them are outdated and they seem irrelevant. Why wouldn't the Gilnean traitors see Shadowfang Keep and say "that would make a good base of operations"? It makes sense that Scholomance would have changed over the last so many years since we first visited it, the school must be getting funding from somewhere. It makes sense that Warlord Zaela would commandeer UBRS and use it as a stakeout point for her planned invasion of alliance cities. Wouldn't it make sense that the old threats within them have been successfully neutralized? Why wouldn't big baddies see these strategically placed structures as a cool place to go start a new cult of evildoers?

But my gut says "Now why would you go and do something like that? Didn't you see the sign that said 'DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON!'?"

How will we finish testing with the self-destruct mechanism active?

Okay, well, Mimiron says that.

For the most part, a good chunk of the playerbase tends to look at nostalgia as a joke. When people favorably remember Vanilla and their old times playing the game, their feelings are disregarded as silly, false memories, and sometimes even damaging. The desire to preserve old, outdated content just because of nostalgia stands in the way of progress, damnit!

even the game itself makes some jabs at nostalgia

There is nothing innately bad about nostalgia. We play old games we loved all the time - it's a common thing that gamers do. There's nothing wrong with remembering how much fun you had when the world was new and exciting and you weren't cynical and jaded. World of Warcraft interacts differently than other video games in regards to our natural tendencies to reminisce about how much we liked the old days because it's a living video game. It changes actively with the years, and it has grown with us. It bars us completely from replaying our adventures that we remember so fondly, so when a gamer's natural tendency to replay a game they loved pops up when the nostalgia starts hitting them hard, they can't.

name it Not-Quite-So-Desolace

Unlike other places this happens - like real life - we have a tangible perpetrator we can 'blame' for these horrible transgressions. We reminisce about stuff all the time, not just in video games, but video games have a unique aspect about them where we can revisit them and more strongly and closely experience our past memories, more than we ever can in real life.

World of Warcraft is unique compared to other games in that it doesn't let us do that. Even though it should be normal for us to expect that we can't relive our memories - since that's how the entire world works - we see these 'updates' and changes to our old content and we get all bent out of shape about it. Removing our ability to relive these feelings could have been avoided, but it was purposefully removed. On purpose! The very idea!

This, we'll call it a phenomenon, is what causes people like me to be so horribly disappointed by revamps.

Trust me, I get it. I'm not so disconnected from reality to say that I don't think the game should ever be updated or outdated content shouldn't get a little overhaul now and again. However, I may be in the minority in my thinking on a few of these "quality of life" changes and other "streamlining" decisions, but that's for another post.

some things never change

The dungeon revamps are one thing, but the gash in my heart and spirit still hasn't healed from when Blizzard went back and changed all of Azeroth for the release of Cataclysm. They even further altered a large number of the dungeons that had to be touched up because they were no longer the correct level range for the zone where they were located. More than half of Sunken Temple was lost in the Cataclysm. I can't even revisit an updated version of that - it's just gone.

where AM I?

A lot of things were changed for the better in the Cataclysm, certainly. Dungeons have quest givers at the entrances and they are better tuned to reward actually useful things for the lowbies who are experiencing them at the appropriate levels. Zones were made to flow better with fewer disjointed quests. You don't have to travel all around the world just to complete [Witch Doctor Uzer'i]'s quest line, and the rewards are actually decent. Sunken Temple was a veritable labyrinth - corralling newbies and scrubs alike through that place was an experience all its own.

Surely it's a good thing that they've made these updates, right?

the world is changing around me and I'm scared

As the game's older content gets revamped, it becomes more up to date and, dare I take the blunt approach and say, easier. The leveling experience was different back during Vanilla, and even though people are still leveling up through the same zones, it's permanently different now. There's no way Blizzard could get away with making leveling 1 through 60 still take significant, tens of entire days worth of played time.

especially with this thing around nowadays

Nostalgia is a real thing that is very interesting to learn about. There are mountains of information, studies, and research about it. It's not just another term the Warcraft playerbase coined - it's why your grandparents say things were better in the good ol' days. It's why you still think bologna sandwiches taste pretty good even though you've had much better sandwiches since then. It's why you think the cartoons you grew up with were way better than the ones around now.

other than, you know, the absolute true fact that they are

And, yes, that means that even things that may have actually not been that great still feel great when you relive them. You have so many positive emotions and feelings attached to those memories that it still makes you feel all full of love and fluff.

It's as normal for people to reminisce about the old days of Warcraft as it is to think back fondly on any number of positive memories. It's something that we all do. It may be annoying, but I think it's just as silly to smack talk the game's history when you probably played it as much as I did.

I understand the game is going to continue to get revamped and the old, outdated content I love will be forever changed piece by piece. I know it's important for the game to stay current in order to attract, entertain, and keep both new and old players - but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

My first character is not my current main - I swapped at the end of Vanilla to my beloved druid, but Pascal always has a spot in my heart.

you'll note I used him for all of my screenshots in this post

Before transmogrification was introduced, I used to keep my hunter's old gear in his bags. I wore it around cities and logged out in it. Since 4.3, his outfit's always been the same - even if new hunter gear comes out that looks awesome, I will still prefer his mix-matched Giant- and Dragonstalker armor. It was what he was wearing by the end of Vanilla's reign, when I decided to main swap, [Sawbones Shirt] included. His old neck, rings, and trinkets are still in my bank along with the visible gear.

Call me silly all you want, but I'm going to remember Vanilla and talk about how cool it was and there's nothing you can do to stop me.

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