If you lived through the 1980s and came of age in the 1990s, like I did, the last few years probably seem like a very weird case of déjà vu.
Suddenly, songs I grew up with are showing up on the local Classic Rock and (ugh) Oldies radio stations. They’re making movies out of the TV and toy franchises I recall as a kid (or, in some cases, just flat-out rebooting them wholesale). And shows and films seem dead-set on heavily referencing the stuff that filled my childhood (Stranger Things and Ready Player One come readily to mind).
Now, this isn’t unusual – the same thing happened to my parents’ generation (I have distinct memories of a bevy of films filling the 1990s based on 1960s and 1970s TV properties, like The Flintstones, The Jetsons, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, and so on), but it’s still something that I feel ambivalent about at best.
This particular trend has also been a major factor in tabletop gaming of late, giving rise to what I like to call “nostalgia gaming.”
Paying attention of any kind to the tabletop gaming world these days, you’re going to see many a product designed to appeal to gamers from Generation X all the way up through the Millennials born in the mid-1980s (depending on which pundit is doing the commentary, my birth year either makes be a Gen-Xer or a Millennial).
Case in point: A Ghostbusters board game; a Dark Crystal board game; a Labyrinth board game; a reboot of the Trinity RPG; a reboot of the Alternity RPG; attempts to get a HeroQuest reboot started; I could go on.
Games Workshop has been riding the nostalgia horse pretty hard, and apparently with grandly successful results. They produced a new version of the venerable Space Hulk game a few years back, and then resurrected their dormant board game department. Old metal minis from decades ago were suddenly available again on a made-to-order basis (usually for a limited time); and Necromunda was revamped, rebooted and reprinted in what has become a massive hit. (Yes, I own a copy. No, I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but it’s on the list of projects for this year).
To what end, these trips down memory lane? Well, of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that the generation of people who enjoyed these games and franchises decades ago are the ones now who have more money to spend on these nostalgia-riffic gaming products, whether it be for themselves or to share with their kids. But it also feels like a case of demand driving supply. Older Millennials have been described as prematurely nostalgic. Now, I’m not really sure what that means. However, the town I work in currently has, in its downtown, a store that sells vintage video games and systems, and another that specializes in vintage roleplaying and wargaming products. They wouldn’t be there if people didn’t want to get in on this stuff and relive their old experiences.
I generally welcome the return of old favorites, especially if they returned improved and bettered by the decades between their incarnations. But there’s still something wonderful and comforting about breaking out the old box, and rolling the old dice.
Does that make me nostalgic for nostalgia?
About the Author;
Peter Kuebeck is a writer, gamer and award-winning mini-painter living in the Midwest. He wages a constant battle against the ever-growing tide of unpainted minis in his basement, and occasionally GMs role-playing game sessions with friends. Catch his hobby shenanigans on Twitter at @popculturecube
Premium Game Mats for your favorite miniature wargames at GameMats.com
3D Printed Wargame Terrain for miniature wangames at our PrinTerrain Etsy shop
Image via eBay