1 Hour Games Crit: Nostalgia

I wrote this in just over an hour, based on a prompt I was given via Twitter and with an eye towards submitting something for August 2015’s Blogs of the Round Table.

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There is something to be said for nostalgia, and that something is that it is terrible. A treacherous feeling of loss for a thing that never was, holding us back and pretending to be our friend while it does so. The past is terrible. It is said that the past is another country, which may be true if the other country you are thinking about is filled with pain and racists. It isn’t just that my own past is one of pain and loss and hardship, its that by every measurable metric the share of pain and loss and hardship across the whole of the human race was greater. If, individually, your past was one of roses and light and love then you are an anomaly. In the grand scheme of things the number of people with nice childhoods they got to spend playing games as if it was their only worry is a blip, a nothing. Even if the best thing about your childhood was those islands of play, floating out on the deep ocean of despair and misery, why would you feel nostalgic for them? It is because they are a lie that you tell yourself about safety. Moments of safety become a false synecdoche for a totality of safety that was never there. We progress into understanding; it is awareness of the problems that you face and the responsibility that you bear for them. Nostalgia is in this way a yearning for ignorance. Maybe Warhammer was a better game when the height of scenery was vibrant red spined cacti made of toothpicks and polystyrene rather than a £500 mess of spikey plastic skulltowers. I don’t know, and to be honest I don’t care. Nostalgia tells you that because you were around when it was seeding itself that you are better than those who are around now. Nostalgia tells you that those people slavishly building their Fortress of Grim Corruption are lacking in the imagination you had when you slavishly built your ork fortress from a design printed in White Dwarf. The key thing to remember is that it is always someone’s first foray into something. It is always currently someone’s childhood just as it is always someone else’s dotage. You could complain that kids today aren’t having to use their imaginations because it’s all on computers these days and it all looks the same but then when you were a kid I bet there was someone grouching that you weren’t out sailing steamboats down the Mississippi and making your own goddamn fun. Which is a shame because the best Warhammer story there is is Death on the Reik, a WFRP adventure about being on a steamboat that, in the true pseudo-Germanic style of the old Empire smells mainly of feet and sauerkraut. So yeah, I love the Warhammer of my youth, but it is what it is and what it is is in the past. it doesn’t exist any more. Our youth is a deer sacrificed to Artemis, warm and vibrant and beautiful and laid out dead on the altar of frigid progress. Nature hunted in a fern-ridged valley with steel-tipped arrows and stretched out on cold stone. The belief that everything is getting better just because our technology is progressing, just because we progressed from stone axe to metal glaive to polycarbonate rifle, just because we got more efficient at killing is a dead end. But then, so is life. An inescapable march towards death. A negation of everything that once we cared for. All there is is the hope that what we did was beautiful and that what we will do might have value one day.