It’s easy to look at the past and say that it must have been better then. Raids must have required much more strategy and much less reading online to complete when the game launched, compared to the present state of simply learning dance moves and completing them. The only change has been the design ethos – the past six years have not brought more experience or a more robust network for disseminating strategies. Things were harder back then, they required more thought, and there was a more enjoyable game in place.
Proving people wrong via experiments such as EverQuest‘s new “progression” server is an exercise in frustration. If the deliberate throwback experience fails to live up to the image in one’s head, there are countless scapegoats for why the nostalgia server doesn’t properly recapture the glory of yesteryear. We’re notoriously bad at admitting that our affectionate memories can often grow without outside influence, that in hindsight the things we loved when we were younger weren’t any better or worse than what exists now. And we’ll construct elaborate rationales for why the Now is bad and Then was better, without stopping to examine that perhaps things have been the same all along.
I remember watching Ms. Lady trying to play through Final Fantasy VI a couple of years ago before giving up and apologizing. “I just can’t get into it,” she said. And I looked at a game that had defined so many years of gaming for me, full of characters and story twists and progression that remain etched into my head, and I can see why she would put it down. It was a marvelous game in 1994, but that was more than a decade ago, and the happy memories of the game are tempered by a selective editing that cuts out every frustrating death or obtuse boss fight or secret hidden in a ridiculous spot. The game I remember is something so good it stands up to modern standards despite its age; it’s a shame that this game only exists in my memory, not in the present or in 1994 or ever.