Second Chance Nostalgia

Nostalgia is an odd drug.

Sometimes we find ourselves so enamored with the concept of nostalgia, that when we actually get the odd chance to reenact something from the past, the experience is somehow not how we envisioned it in our heads. Recognizing that it’s not often we get to walk the same road twice, here’s the question: Is the journey as enjoyable—and accessible—as we remember it?

A few years ago, Blizzard Entertainment launched a trailer for a video game that opened with, “Someone once said you can’t go home again…” It was a statement referring to nearly 15 years of players hoping for the launch of classic game servers—a now-relic of the early 2000s. Fast forward to August of this year and that tease became the backbone of the marketing for the launch of World of Warcraft Classic. It was a pristine replica of the game in its exact state during launch year—riddled with inconveniences, a slower experience, and complexity which the modern retail equivalent has simplified.

Players returned in droves, both those who played and have moved on, as well as those who never experienced the game in its original state. During the peak of launch, some players sat in a queue lobby for more than six hours just to play. And after years of talking up the “classic experience” to new players and old alike, players were finally able to jump in.

So, let’s fast forward to a month later, where the biggest question is: who is still playing? While it is undeniable that Classic will have a community of its own, Classic has been showing its age in unique ways—by reminding some players that they have grown up, moved on, and have real world obligations.

There are now 15 years of life between those that played the game at launch and the Classic release. While some have returned to dust off their old mantles, others are realizing that they have become spoiled on the conveniences of modern gaming, widespread strategy guides, and features that reduce the amount of wait time between progressive play.

Classic has become a harsh reminder that, for some, nostalgia has to exclusively stay in the past because it is tied to a phase of their life they can’t get back. As someone who played the game at original launch, Classic has been an interesting gateway, both to a time in my life to which I’m no longer attached, and to a game that I can’t see myself playing again. However, that doesn’t change how I felt about it when it first came out.

It’s something my generation hasn’t had to experience yet, the idea that some nostalgia isn’t just a marketing gimmick or a rebrand—some of it has become inaccessible simply because our lives are changing. So maybe it is true, in a sense, that we “can’t go home again”—at least in the way we envision it in our minds. As Millennials, we now have to make the decision on if we can afford spending our money, and more importantly, our time, to participate.