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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.

I Like You, But I Don’t ‘Like Like’ You

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This all started when my girlfriend told me to check out a new show this season called Empire. She isn’t really too into most TV dramas so the fact that she was really into this one grabbed my attention.  I gave it a few episodes. I could see why people like it. It’s basically King Lear told via the modern day music industry. A very cool choice for Fox I would say.  But at the end of the day, it just didn’t grab me.  I’m already at my ‘TV time’ max for new shows to watch this season so I decided to let this one go.
She still loves it, and the unprecedented ratings growth shows that many others do as well. Am I missing out here? Not getting into a solid show that is getting more popular each week. On paper I can see this is a good show but it just didn’t pull me in like it did for her.  All the while though I have been super happy for her enjoyment of it and all it’s success. It is great to see something a little fresher on network tv.
This got me thinking. “Am I enjoying the enjoyment others are having for this show?” Yes, it seems like I was. Which lead me to ask, “Is this really even a thing?” I was so unsure of this idea at first I didn’t even know how to properly search for more info.
Google search WTF
This lead me to looking into possible words used to describe this phenomenon. At one point I was looking for antonyms of ‘Schadenfreude’. Schadenfreude as some of you might be aware is German for, “The joy or pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.” With a little digging I found something that I thought would work. The Buddhist word for the concept of unselfish joy: ‘Mudita’.
Mudita means, “Especially sympathetic or vicarious joy. The pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being rather than begrudging it.” Wow, that’s just perfect!
I also think this being a Buddhist word adds strength to it being the right choice here. The way we come to enjoy the specific things that others enjoy can sometimes feel like we are on a path to some form of entertainment enlightenment that could end up leading us somewhere else all together.

Take Parks & Recreation for example.  I gave this show many, many tries but just couldn’t find its spark. I know, I’m a monster.  But what started out as a journey to find enjoyment lead me to a path of respect and understanding. Not as much of the show but of why people enjoy it. Its great writing, wonderful cast, etc.

 Broad City, Girls, Love Live: School Idol Project. These also fit into this category for me.
Another way of looking at this is when finding something you had an excitement for before fully diving into the content but after doing so being left feeling a little empty. Sure, this can happen when something is overhyped but I’m talking about situations with confirmed quality content.
For example, I’ve never been able to feel the euphoria others have from listening to David Bowie’s early work. He is hands down an amazing artist and I enjoy his music at times but nothing every gave me the ‘wow factor’ feeling outside of playing Ziggy Stardust on Rock Band 3.
Prince, Patlabor 2, Charles Dickens. All great, but are in the same boat as Bowie for me in this situation.
Have you ever experienced the feeling of mudita?
If so I would love to hear about it in the comments below or feel free to hit me up on Twitter at @neumaverick.