It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon. I’m caught up with work. The house is clean. I’m incredibly bored. My shelves are full of dozens of new video games, but I can’t bring myself to play them.
Suddenly, I remember something. My old Nintendo 64 is packed away in the closet. I dig through the mountain of forgotten childhood memories and unearth the dusty system. Upon further digging, I find a familiar, yellow-colored cartridge. It’s Donkey Kong 64.
I now know that my afternoon will be filled with fond memories of the past. I remember the hours my brother and I spent trying to find all of the golden bananas. Even though the game has frustratingly awful controls, I deal with it because it brings me back to a simpler time. I remember the glory days of my childhood, and that’s enough to keep me going.
At the end of the night, I put the system and game back where I found it. It’s unlikely I’ll complete the game anytime soon, but the memories were worth it.
Reliving the glory days
I’m sure several of you have done this in some shape or form in the past. It’s not unusual to pick up a game you enjoyed so much in your younger days to relive the experience.
But why do we enjoy doing this, even if the game in question is arguably bad? These feelings of nostalgia and good memories come from positive associations. We feel warm and fuzzy inside when we couple things with happy moments, especially when it comes to our favorite hobbies.
For me, I have fond memories of Metal Arms: Glitch in the System. It’s not the best game in the world, but I feel an overwhelming sense of joy when I play it. This is mostly because I think of the times my brother and I played against each other almost every day when I was younger.
I’m actually not very good at the game, either. My brother always won, and when I was little, it really made me upset. Nowadays when I play the game, I’m still bad. But when I die or fail a mission, I can’t help but smile. I just remember the days when my brother and I hung out and played games together.
While there’s nothing stopping my brother and me from playing games together now, it’s very unlikely to ever just be a good time. We’re both grown up, and we have families and jobs to worry about. So I save my play sessions of Metal Arms for when I truly feel up to it. But while there are positive associations for games, there also exists the not-so-sunny side.
The cons of memory association
Fortunately, I don’t have many examples of this, but there are games I absolutely can’t touch due to negative memories that I associate with them.
I graduated high school in 2014, and I decided to immediately go to college the following August. This meant moving away from my family and friends to pursue a degree I wasn’t sure I even wanted. At the time, I told everyone I wanted to be a programmer.
This wasn’t true, even though I didn’t know it at the time. But as school went on and I felt more disconnected from my old friends and was struggling to make new ones, I fell into a depressed state. So, unfortunately, many games I attempted to play at the time are tainted with these feelings.
When people talk about the great releases of 2014, I find myself unwilling to go back. I never had a chance to finish games like Hyrule Warriors and Child of Light, and I even find Smash Bros. on 3DS and Wii U hard to go back to.
These games are all great, and I’ve moved on from everything I was feeling in 2014. I’m on a path I feel comfortable with now, but it doesn’t matter for some reason. Despite my best efforts, almost anything I played around this time is held in this negative light.
I hope I’m alone in this. I don’t want external issues to affect how I enjoy certain video games. But that’s not how the human brain works. Besides, video games can help us cope through difficult times.
No matter how much I may not want to play some of these games, I am thankful for having them around when I needed them. Entertainment was crucial to my mental health during that time, and I’m glad it kept me sane.
The memories that matter
I hope most of your memories of video games in the past have positive events attached to them. To those who have had good games ruined for them by memory association, I’m sorry.
In the end, we’re more likely to remember the glory days. You remember the time you finally beat your sibling at Mario Kart. You remember when you had Mario Party and finally convinced your parents to play a video game with you.
These are the memories that should shape who we are. I don’t think about 2014 often. But I do think about Metal Arms. Those are the memories that matter.