Nostalgia Part Two: The Dark Side

My last post discussed nostalgia, and the recurring joy it can foster. Interestingly, over the past few months I have been considering a different aspect to nostalgia. One that I am becoming ever more aware of when browsing social and digital media. Namely, how our feelings of the past are blinded by the passing of time and how nostalgia can cause bitterness in the here and now. 

Perhaps my own interpretation of the word nostalgia is to blame. It is often defined as an excessive yearning to return to the past, with a melancholy undertone. I instead have always personally considered it a recollection of key times or events that brought about a heightened sense of joy or pleasure. This, combined with a willingness to try to recreate or remember those times. Nostalgia to me is being thankful for those times, rather than being disappointed that the now is not as good.

The key trigger for me to consider this in greater depth was the recent release of the Obi Wan series. My friendship group, as could be expected, includes a significant number of avid Star Wars fans. The discourse that followed the release of this show surprised me. Whilst the debate about whether new Star Wars movies are any good has been going for many years, this show appeared to me to be a turning point in how profoundly people who did not like it felt the need to criticise the show.

I believe criticism is a key part of all media forms, and highly important. But what surprised me is that the criticism had at times moved away from personal opinion on content, to being critical of people who decide they liked the content. The discussions I have witnessed on Obi Wan have made me acutely aware of how much negativity now permeates all aspects of nerd culture. Whether it is the trading card, wargaming or board game communities. Or the comic book, manga or pop culture fandom. Forums and social media posts are now more frequently about what is wrong with the current state of these things, or full of judgement and complaints. It can at times feel like saying that you like something will lead to vilification or cause you to duck, for fear of flying tomatoes!

It does at times appear that we have reached a point where I rarely see content discussing the positives of something. Such content tends to generate heated and sometimes unpleasant debate. I recall as a child that to talk about your favourite hobbies amongst like minded kids was a true joy. Back then, being a nerd wasn’t cool, it made you a target for bullying! We banded together and took comfort that we had superheroes, dungeons and dragons and other games to enjoy. Today, most of these things have become highly popularised and no longer hold much, if any, stigma. I am unsure if this has had an influence into why a larger degree of negativity has appeared. But I find it odd that so many of those who would have been labelled nerds as children have become so judgmental of others who attempt to show their enjoyment of pop culture.

I do feel that nostalgia has had an impact. In particular, a belief that the things we loved as kids were better then, than they are now. Whilst this may be factual for some things, the dark side of nostalgia is that the yearning we have to return to the past is blurred by too many factors. In nerd culture specifically I believe a strong factor is that as children we had very limited content to consume. Therefore we were forgiving of flaws. As well as this, I do believe that children will actively focus on the things that they like when watching or reading something. Small problems will be less likely to bother them and are washed out by the moments of joy whilst watching their heroes destroy the Death Star. What this ultimately leads to is those strong feelings of nostalgia when we are adults, which focus on the good aspects and forget the bad. With these thoughts, anything new will always struggle to compete. 

This nostalgia will make it very difficult for modern things to live up to the expectations we have built from childhood. Obi wan may just be a great example of this because it takes such a beloved character and attempts to create a new story for him. Perhaps the nostalgia for this character is so overwhelming in some that seeing a story not to their liking creates a sense of outrage. Thinking about this, I do understand why the show has been so divisive, and led to such strong feelings. But I do think that we might all benefit from remembering that whilst the Dark Side of nostalgia might ruin modern content for some of us, we should never stop encouraging others to show how much they like something. This is what all cultures should strive for.

Let’s be more willing to agree to disagree. Rather than breeding discontent, let’s pivot and talk about the things that we love. Nostalgia can be a tricky thing. Maybe we all need to be a bit more aware of how it influences our opinions.


A Blast from the Past Revolutionised – HeroQuest

It came with a simple enough comment. We all have nerd vices.

With regard to the majority of my friends, this is a horrendous understatement. Given time and disposable income there are no bounds to the insane projects we will come up with. You could be financing a space empire in Eve Online, writing Fantasy novels, collecting four of every magic the gathering card, wargaming, or trying to own every single Nintendo console in existence (There are a lot more than you would think). We’ve done it all. And like most people our age we have fond memories of the board game HeroQuest.


We’ve come a long way. So many late nights. So much Mountain Dew.

For those who don’t know, it is essentially Dungeons and Dragons simplified into a board game. It captured the imagination of young nerds across the world and I am safe to say elicits nostalgic sighs from many people who wouldn’t want you to know they played this as kids/teenagers. Just read this fantastic write up from Rock,Paper, Shotgun. It comes with the original TV spot which cannot be missed.

Now, speaking of nerd vices, Davide Rizzo, a prodigiously talented web designer/graphic artist, who also happens to be one of my Beta Readers, has tapped into his memories and created a web based application which allows you to make your own HeroQuest maps with the click of a button. (Note, you need Chrome Browser for it to work properly) For those non tech-savvy people, it may look simple enough, but the time and effort which has gone into this can’t be underestimated.


Open source and easy to use. What are you waiting for?

The maps can be saved as text files on your computer to be loaded up again via the map creator at any point in time. At this stage the tool is only for map creation and would suit anyone looking to map out a dungeon for an RPG or even a game of HeroQuest if you still have it. The code is Open Source and available on CodePen, which hopefully provides potential for someone else to pick it up and create some working online games with it.

I encourage you all to have a play around with it and admire the work. There are plenty of projects sitting on peoples hard drives which will never be made public. Here is a great example of someone who has taken the effort to create something really outstanding and then shared it with the online community for free use.


Hmmm, I wonder what’s behind this door… Probably Treasure …

If you are interested in seeing more of Davide’s work you can follow his blog here and see his website here.



My Top Picks – Part Two

Part two of my series on my biggest influences covers some lesser known things that have moulded who I am today. I will continue to cover some of the key books, movies, music and shows that have influenced me.

The Call to Ktulu:

Music plays a very large part in getting my creative juices flowing. Music can stir emotions that other mediums fail to. In many ways it requires you to really utilise your imagination as there is no visual stimulus. Metallica’s instrumental piece ‘the Call to Ktulu’ is one piece of music that is very important to me. I am referring to the version presented on their S&M album together with the San Francisco Symphony.

Why is this piece of music so important to me? Because it could be seen as a trigger for my choice to become a writer. Sitting on a bus for up to 8 hours a day whilst travelling through central Australia on a school trip, I was given ample time to listen to my Walkman. Metallica had opened my eyes to hard rock a year earlier and my tape got a good workout. None more than the Call to Ktulu. As soon as this track began I was taken away from that bus. Transported to a world of clashing armies, knights and demons, magic and mayhem.

I played out scenes of an epic tale in my mind whilst staring out of the window at the endless red blanket that is the aussie outback. The music fuelled my imagination. With every repeat of the track the story grew larger, clearer. By the end of a two week trip, I had to pick up a pencil and write the tale. And that is what I did when I got home. That story became the basis for the Valerious Chronicles. I have no doubt that without the Call to Ktulu to keep me company, Christill and Thibalt’s tale would have never been told.

X-Men (Comics and Cartoon):

One of my fondest memories as a child was going with my mother to the local shopping centre and finding that a new volume of the X-Men animated series had become available on VHS. This was well before the days of the internet and the only way for me to watch the show was through waiting months for the next cassette to become available. It was shown very rarely on TV in Australia giving me little opportunity to tape it.

I shudder to think how many times I watched each episode, glued to the TV to watch Wolverine and the X-Men fight the most dastardly villains ever to grace the TV. Much can be said about why X-Men is so popular. Strong characters, relevant themes and great writing perhaps to name a few. Its popularity is still on the rise. For me it was the first fictional universe to draw me in and create an obsession. There are few things that I liked as a child that I am still passionate about now. X-Men has stood the test of time.

My brother collected X-Men comics which I eventually inherited. They opened up to me the greater marvel universe and showed me how much more there was than just the animated show. I came to realise that there were thousands of people out there who liked X-Men as much as I did. It was my first introduction to true fandom. One could say it was the beginning of my transition to teenage nerd.

Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.