Zach Whalen and Laurie N. TaylorEdit

Zach Whalen is assistant professor of English, language and communication at the University of Mary Washington. He graduated with an MA and PhD in English from the University of Florida, with a dissertation on the videogame text. He has published a handful of articles on new media and game studies, including the Game Studies website.

Laurie N. Taylor is the interim director of the Digital Library Center at the University of Florida. She has an MA and PhD in English from the University of Florida.

Playing the Past: History and Nostalgia in Video GamesEdit

Playing the Past is a collection of essays focused on gaming history and nostalgia: "the essays in this collection join a growing field of video game scholarship to explore the role of nostalgia as it configures playing in, of, and with the past" (2). "In" "of" and "with" comprise the 3 subsections of the book's organization. The editors are interested in how video games both represent history, are remembered historically, and function as historical artifacts. Video games often fold the old into the new, producing a "logic of nostalgia that combines the past and present in a ways that can cause the past to become a fetish" (3). The authors define nostalgia as "process of looking back to an unattainable past and trying to bring that past into the present" (3). The editors claim that games studies scholarship follows a "logic of nostalgia" because it tries to create a history for games that is part of the larger media ecology--here they cite Janet Murray, who brought "the long history of narratology on the new, interactive possibilities promised by the video game" (3). (Why is this nostalgic? Is Murray's desire to contextualize games through literary theory methods a nostalgic one?). The rise in graduate students studying video games is attributed to a nostalgic impulse itself, so much so that "a nostalgic turn is fundamental to game studies as a field" (4). Nostalgia, then, becomes a critical structure, as a method for considering game's relationship to time and memory.

Nostalgia is not very convincingly flushed out. In contextualizing nostalgia, the editors write: "Nostalgia begins with memory, but it is more than simply the displaced memory of a past event; nostalgia (both personal and cultural) operates within a complex negotiation of temporality. Video games operate on similar organizations of time and space" (5). Because nostalgia and video games both involve play with spacial and temporal negotiations, they can be said to have a relationship, that video games have nostalgic properties. There is no particular reference to any key thinkers or theorists of cultural memory.

Why Old School is "Cool"Edit

In this essay, Sean Fenty explores why old or classic games hold so much power of memory in a economic enterprise conditioned by the new. Here, the author defines nostalgia as "the emotional by-product of change" (21). Fenty writes: "Video games may be, for some, artifacts of a past they want to return to, but video games also offer the seduction of a perfect past that can be replayed, a past within which players can participate, and a past in which players can move and explore" (22). In the larger scheme of this article, Fenty argues that classic games hold a greater property of nostalgia because they are more abstract (cool media, as McLuhan would consider them); he borrows this notion from Lucky Wander Boy. The pang of gamer nostalgia lies in the inability to recover the past, for, as Fenty argues, we have changed and the games have helped us change--even though the games stay the same.

Homesick for Silent HillEdit

In this essay, Natasha Whiteman argues for individuated understandings of nostalgia, as expressed on the Silent Hill message board forum. Fans can construct nostalgic "stances" based on how they engage with the game (spectate, mod, repeat, explore). These responses also secure meaning and affiliate among the fan community. She uses a combination of social science and psychoanalytic analysis to study her fan community.

Playing the Deja NewEdit

In this essay, Matthew Thomas Payne explores how Plug-in-and-Play games (PNP) capitalize on the nostalgic desire to replay old games. Payne considers the significance of what games are chosen for (re)production, as their "significance" is what offers them a second history in the form of PNP peripherals. PNPs are the corollary to the nostalgia film, situating the gamer in a perpetual present; one of the greatest triumphs of capitalism is the ability to render profit from all cultural styles and eras--history becomes a bit unhinged as the old as proffered as the new (here Fredric Jameson is employed). Gaming communities themselves are not in unison about how to preserve their "collective memory", as memory practices vary according to medium and period. In this essay, PNP companies and MAME [Multiple Arcade Machine Emulators] are compared in terms of their practices, motives and community base.

Unlimited Minutes: Playing Games in the Palm of Your HandEdit

In this essay, Sheila Murphy explores the ubiquity of gaming programs on cell phones. Clearly, telecommunications and computing industries see continuity between data devices and portable gaming devices. Often the games used are of the "classic" era, games that involve small coding, flat 2D colors and straightforward play. Games take a secondary role on these primary communication devices, which suits their small code content. Portable devices become threshold devices, potentially transforming any space into "game space". Lag time becomes unqiuely suited to mobile gaming. The classic video games most of this palm-based gaming nostalgically summons was based on games that needed to be cheap to produce and economical in memory. On the last page, Murphy draws from both Heidi Rae Cooley and Vivian Sobchack regarding the relation between the hand and the device, a fit, that requires us to examine "how technologies become incorporated into our sensorium as devices that we use by rote and that draw us in, even on their small and sometimes limited screens. These are not just games in threshold spaces: phones and music players allow users to create nearly imperceptible barriers between ourselves and the outside, and zones of private experience within public space--ways of turning off the world by turning on the game" (122).