Thinking back on thinking back
“Would you like to write the introduction to some essays I’ll be publishing?”
Those weren’t the exact words in the message Meg wrote me, but that is the memory. I’ve already forgotten the exact day she asked or what exactly I was doing, but what I do recall, vividly, is that I was and still am touched by the fact that someone else—who I met at Magfest in 2018 and didn’t get to chat with nearly as much as I would have liked—thought highly enough of me to consider me to write a introduction for her.
The combination of that memory, and the objective and subjective facts that surround that memory, have taken on a life of their own in my mind. The reality of my recollection is a gratitude and joy, and that recollection isn’t so much driven by me lacking the details as this warm fuzzy feeling being a summation of them. Which brings us to these essays, and the exploration of nostalgia in games.
A number of essays follow that reflect on nostalgia in gaming. Some explore why these feelings are so powerful. Others look at what is so unique about this medium, that causes it to touch us with such poignancy. And still others look at specific examples, and how they resonate in our minds many years and many games after the fact. Throughout, these essays, these thoughts, help us more fully appreciate and be aware one slice of how games touch us, both in the fleeting moments, years, and even decades after the fact.
I think there’s a lot to be said for that. Anybody can feel warm fuzzy thoughts about something, or think fondly back on a particular time. But knowing why these memories, these emotions, these experiences matter to us—that helps us understand ourselves, and each other. It also helps us understand that while many games are partially or even primarily crafted and sold to entertain, that the medium isn’t only about transient pleasure—it can express meaning, the kind that we can and should cherish for lifetimes.
My hope that as you go through these musings, think back on your own experiences, and see how some of the ideas here relate to the personal truths of your own memories. I’d like to think that, as was the case for me, that revisiting your own nostalgiac experiences in combination with the insights here, that you’ll see those memories from additional perspectives, letting you enjoy those same events on a deeper level. There’s nothing quite like that moment of epiphany, be it in learning a game, or learning about yourself.
May this book bring you many such moments, and may you someday look back on going through these essays with nostalgiac fondness
Fred Wan is a narrative designer and RPG tabletop writer with over 15 years in the industry. He spent 12 years as one of the Story Leads for the Legend of the Five Rings collectible card game and roleplaying game. Since then, he has written and consulted for both the tabletop and video game industries. Some of his current projects include working with Muse Games as a narrative consultant, and writing for the Mutants & Masterminds RPG. He speaks at conventions such as GDC, PAX West, Magfest, and Shut Up and Sit Down Expo, about gaming industry topics and storytelling in games. He is also a practicing attorney.