Rogue One: A Star Wars Fan Story

Warning: Some minor spoilers
There is so much to talk about regarding Rogue One. Ive already read a lot just in the past few hours this morning and looking forward to reading even more. So not to double up on any of the main discussions going around I wanted to instead share something from the overall feeling I took away from this film.
I really, really enjoyed Rogue One. Like REALLY enjoyed it. When it ended I found myself with tears in my eyes, both my hands shaking, my heart rate sky spiking, and barely being able to speak in complete sentences. This wasn’t 100% from the amazingly action packed final 20 mins of the movie, it did most certainly help, but from something else that I couldn’t put my finger on at the moment. Ive had 12 hours to ponder on this feeling and I think I’ve figured out what it was.
This was a less a feeling of enjoying a new Star Wars film and more like visiting some where that feels so familiar but you’ve never been to before. Like going back to where you grew up many years later and even though a lot has changed you can still see the framework of the town that was. A feeling similar to deja vu but when you are aware that this is something different and not exactly what was before. A strong emotional link between something from the past and something in the present. Let’s call it “newstalgia”.
I’ve watched ‘A New Hope’ more times than I can count. I was 3 months old when it first hit theaters in 1977 so I’ve had decades to ware away multiple VHS tapes, DVDs, and even Blu-rays of this film with so many revisits. Almost every time I clean our house I still throw in one of the films from the original trilogy. So to say New Hope is engrained in to my life is an understatement.
When Rogue One’s credits first started to roll and I turned into a big ball of goo I thought I was being overwhelmed by a new Star Wars film that made New Hope an even better film (which I do think it did and is worth it’s own blog post) and all the call backs to Episode IV where just triggering so fast that I couldn’t process everything that just happened fast enough. I also thought that I might have been a bit punch drunk going into seeing the film since in the past 2 weeks I had been on 5 flights across two times zones and not had much sleep during this time as well. After some more reflection, sleep, and whiskey I landed on these not being the main causes for clutching my girlfriend’s hand all through the credits like I was afraid I going to float away. It was newstalgia.
When finding out why the first Death Star had such a big design flaw. Newstalgia.
When seeing new scenes of Grand Moff Tarkin, Darth Vader, & Mon Mothma. Newstalgia.
When watching Rebels die trying to pass along the plans on an invaded ship. Newstalgia.
When finally putting all the pieces together that link the new with the old and you feel them merge together in that place inside you where you keep all those wonderful memories for the old and it feels like being plugged into the Matrix and suddenly getting new DLC for Ms. Pac-Man. Newstalgia.

I Live. I Die. I Live Again: Retro Gaming Culture and Why it’s Here to Stay

Like many of you I’m a big retro video game fan. 8 & 16 bit games and all the things that surround them are my happy place. My warm and fuzzy feeling. My blanket and hot coco.  Show me a Nintendo Power cover from 1991 or whistle the theme from Mega Man 2 and you might just hear me give an audible sigh of zen like calm.  Putting all these feelings aside I think retro video games are here to stay. To better clarify, I think the idea of retro video games will out live the generation that grew up with them. Retro gaming culture is now part of the pop culture vernacular, and here is why I think that.
Have you seen the kids today? They think retro is cool and I’m betting many of them haven’t ever played an NES! So …what’s up with that, right?  From kids, teens, to college age boys and girls there is a love for retro gaming culture that has little ties to the source material other than a ripple of an echo of murmur of an old man saying, “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.”
  Retro NES Ad
Yes there is a generation of kids today that have parents, older siblings, or other close influential roles in their lives that did grow up with retro gaming. Be it Atari, Nintendo, Sega, or just living in bowling alley arcades plugging in quarter after quarter in a Zaxxon cabinet. With Gen X and Y (insert Pokemon joke here) coming into the age of influence and many of them never really wanting to grow up, the seeds of retro gaming culture were spread far beyond just their childhood living rooms.
Retro gaming culture reaches beyond just playing games. My daughter loves Zelda but has barely played any of the games. Love the music, watching walkthrough videos, the characters, the cosplay, the fan art, etc. The feeling of playing the games has now extended past their plastic cartridge casings and into the emotional tethers of people’s lives. Like feeling nostalgic for something you never experienced.
EDM music has influence from retro game music, a.k.a. chip tunes. Chip tunes is a genre of music for christ’s sake! It’s not just seen as some creepy calliope music from some bygone area. The beeps and boops that made games like Contra, Super Mario World, and Ducktales so great have built a new part of the music industry. The music from the stage select menu of Japanese-only mahjong Game Boy game has influenced the quarterly sales of iTunes globally.
Chiptune-Setup-Game-Boys - small
The expansion of the virtual console will keep these games, and with it the culture, around for much longer than they were expected too. Before you had to wait for a ‘gaming classics’ re-release port for PS1 or someone to remake Oregon Trail for Windows 95. Now games that voted for President Carter and lived through slap bracelets can be downloaded to your phone for 99 cents.
Museums! Video games are now in museums. I thought it was crazy when Luke’s X-wing was put in the Smithsonian but now we are seeing rare vintage game consoles and peripherals behind display glass as well. There is even a History of Video Games Museum opening later this year (less than an hour from my house #happydance)! Some day a confused child might ask, “Is that Samus?” when looking at the Mona Lisa.
Power glove Indiana
8 & 16-bit designs. This is a style of art that has caught on quickly with pop culture fans. Not sure if pearler beads were the reason this tread started off so strong but its all over ever Artists Alley at conventions nationwide. From tiny keychain Dragon Balls to 4 foot tall Final Fantasy final bosses.
pearler beads
Like fashion, music, and all styles; things come in popularity and then fall out of popularity. Only to be popular again further down the road. Retro gaming culture is now part of that fly wheel. When it drops out of favor with this generation another further down the road will pick it back up. Who knows, maybe your great grand kids will walk up to one day and tell you about this new hot game called ‘Super Mario Bros’.

The Only Arms Race That Really Mattered: The Damp War

I was working on this week’s blog post, “the arms race which was upgrading your Super Soaker water gun in the summer of the 1990s”, when I found a blog post that had everything I was working on already.  So …slight change of plans.
1. You all should read this blog post about the battle for water gun supremacy that happened across many neighborhoods, including my own, across American in the 1990s: The Race for Super Soaker Supremacy
2. Find out which Super Soaker you are!
I made a personality quiz just for all of you. Now you can find out if you’re the classic Super Soaker 50, duel wielding Super Soaker 30, or the behemoth Super Soaker 300.
Let me know which Super Soaker you got and if you had any of these when you were a kid how they helped make your summers more damp.

Upgrade to the latest version of your beloved past today

A Link between two games
Near the end of 2013 Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. The proverbial follow up to their mega-hit, and my personal favorite in the series, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Link to the Past was one of my favorite SNES games ever so when I heard they were basically releasing a love letter to it there was no way I could pass on playing this game. Hell, I got the Zelda exclusive 3DS solely for this reason.
After completing Link Between Worlds I thought about how great this game was from start to finish.  To my surprise this left me with a strange and uneasy feeling. Which made no sense at the time and the more I thought about it the worse it would get. This game was EXACTLY what I dreamed it would be. It delivered on all fronts. Great game play, music, story, and had everything I loved about Link to the Past at its core.  Using everything the 3DS had to offer this game surpassed its predecessor with ease. So this meant that Link Between Worlds was my new forgive Zelda title right?  Logic should deem this would be the case, but I just wasn’t willing to bump Link to the Past off its throne. I actually started to feel bad about how I was feeling shortly after making this realization. What was fogging my logic here? What was I clinging to with Link to the Past that I wasn’t ready to let go of yet? I’ve not usually one to fight change or growth.
In a word: Nostalgia.
Best. Christmas. Ever!
I’m betting many of you have felt nostalgic towards something. That warm fuzzy feeling associated to some item, event, or place that when you take a moment to think about it you can’t help but smile. Or as Don Draper put it in one of my favorite ad pitches from Mad Men, “Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.”
My feelings of nostalgia are very strong with Link to the Past. Heck, even as I type this I’m watching a walkthrough of the game on YouTube. I love to write to old school video game walkthroughs. ^_^  I knew my nostalgia for Link to the Past was strong but when presented with pretty much the same game as if it was made today instead of back in 1991 I in no way thought it would jump in to block its successor. Like an old king past his prime not ready to pass the crown to the next in line.
This lead me to think about how powerful a role nostalgia can play when looking at updates and remakes of beloved entertainment properties.
A tale of two Battlestars
Battlestar Galactica is a good example. The original series is highly loved by those who grew up with it back in the last 70’s. I caught this in syndication in the early 80’s so I enjoyed the series but never tied too much nostalgia to it. When the new Battlestar series launched in 2004 to great praise I remember talking with some people who grew up on the original series about it. They were enjoying the relaunch but just couldn’t detach their feelings for it away from the original series. I saw the same unsure looks on their faces I had after finishing Link Between Worlds.
This was more than just fear of change, it felt closer to a fear of loosing those good feelings tied to the past. I don’t think any of us actually believe that remaking or continuing something will negate past emotional connections but still these feelings spring up.
Does marathoning Super Mario Bros. U in an afternoon take away the time when you and your cousins played Super Mario 3 for an entire summer? Does Seeing Evangelion 2.22: You Can [Not] Advance at an anime convention lessen the semester in college when you hosted Neon Genesis Evangelion discussion groups in your dorm? Of course not. Then why do we sometimes still feel this way, maybe only on an unconscious level, even when we know it not to be true?  This seems to be something deeper.
I have a theory on the possible cause for this. We are all still inherently tied to a 40,000+ year old piece of nostalgia that as a species we haven’t found a way to let go of yet. Stay with me.
Why Homer will never give up donuts and beer
The Amygdala or ‘lizard brain’ as it’s sometimes called is at fault here. This is a set of neurons in the brain that controls many of our emotions and motivations such as fear, anger, and pleasure. It is responsible for determining what memories are stored in the brain and is believed to also determine how strong of an emotional response an event invokes as well. In short, the amygdala keeps you alive by tying pain and pleasure signals to memories and doesn’t like to rewrite or rewire anything it doesn’t have to.
Part of the Amygdala’s functions is focused towards loss eversion, so you can be quite sure it will go totally agro when challenged. Using my Zelda experience as an example let’s walk through this theory.
  • I played Link to the Past when I was younger. Video games were very enjoyable, scarce, and important to me
    • Amygdala creates a strong tie between Link to the Past and the time I first played it
    • Events grow into nostalgia over the next few decades
  • I played Link Between Worlds as an adult. Video games are still very enjoyable, but a lot more accessible, and not as important as they use to be
    • Amygdala seems similar emotions and triggers with Link to the Past
    • Create pain signals to override logic to stop any chances of damaging the ties it created with Link to the Past
A survival mechanism at its best. Seriously, evolution is pretty bad ass to build this kind of emotional fire wall.
What do you think? When the feeling of nostalgia is threatened, is it part of our lizard brain that causes us to feel a bit defensive about something new? Have you ever experienced this feeling with a remake or update to something you have a special place in your heart for? I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below or feel free to hit me up on Twitter at @neumaverick.