Don’t be afraid of Nostalgia

I don’t think I am really a member of the ‘gamer’ subculture. I don’t really care about super heroes (but I like the way Jack Kirby draws). I get bored with video games and board games. I don’t like reading rule books. Electronic gadgets, Cthulhu references and debating the merits of the ‘Sci-Fi’ (or ‘SyFy?’) channel does not float my boat. I don’t collect anything.

All of this means I don’t really know what to do with my interest in ‘old school’ D&D. I have a bunch of old lead minis that I like, and my old books and all kinds of ‘adventure materials’ that I have made up, but no one I know seems to share my enthusiasm for such lowbrow role playing. I think my interest in D&D is, to a large extent, probably mostly nostalgic.

I don’t particularly want to play a new and improved version of D&D or some other game. The way I used to play it, with a few house rules and misunderstandings and simplifications, sounds great to me. I suspect that is probably unattainable. Maybe you can’t go back.

This quote from Ethan Gilsdorf on Salon seems a pretty good description of what I am thinking:
‘Pure and simple, for many, D&D represents a lost age: It was an individualized, user-driven, DIY, human-scaled creative space separate from the world of adults and the intrusion of corporate forces. As Allison rightly noted, D&D recalls that day “before orcs and wookiees were the intellectual property of vast transmedia corporations.” Back when you had lots more free time than money — before girlfriends, job, kids. Life.’

10 Comments on “Don’t be afraid of Nostalgia”

  1. I'm with you on all that! I only read comics from the 60's and 70's, video games are a bore and rule books are tedious. If I have another computer issue or update of cell phone glitch I think I'll permanently go back to the pencil. I tried reading the new Gamma World 'cause I thought, hey why not but I got pissed off after they started talking about combat.

    But don't get rid of your old gaming stuff (if that's what you were thinking). I got rid of some of it and I regret it.

    There's gotta be some gamers in your area that would love to play a classic style game. The trick is to find them. It's not about going back, it's about bringing that old style of gaming back to life in your area. Are there any game shops that run open gaming sessions? Run some games there, or even at a library. The players are out there….they are!

    BTW, that quote is great.

  2. sirlarkins says:

    You're definitely not alone. Based on your post, I'd say I'm much more a “gamer” than you are (insofar that my interest in RPGs, miniatures, and wargames is far more wide-ranging), but I consider myself a member of the “gaming community” only in the most peripheral sense. And I'd totally play in a nostalgia-fueled D&D campaign as readily (if not moreso, actually) as I'd play a more “modern” system.

    Geek culture (of which gamer culture is a part) has gotten entirely too closed-off, self-referential, and (as the Gilsdorf quote and this quote rightly point out) commodified.

    “It's not about going back, it's about bringing that old style of gaming back to life in your area.”

    QFT. To me the appeal of “going back” is reconnecting with the stuff that fired your imagination as a child/adolescent, but bringing along the focus and depth that comes with adulthood.

  3. Bored of board games? I've been playing Settlers of Catan every two-three weeks for the last 3 years and have yet to get bored.

    To me, it's a simplified version of the OD&D endgame.

  4. People make the mistake of thinking that nostalgia is only backward-looking. I don't see that at all. Nostalgia is also presentist and forward-looking. By creating new art, for new products – that pays homage to the past – you are helping to chart a new direction for the hobby.

  5. scottsz says:


    You are not alone, sir.

    I wish that D&D/RPG's would go back to being uncool and dorky. Sometimes, I wish TSR would've just collapsed and let the brand die. It seems that dorks were swept aside for the newer machines.

    It should be OK to team up with Conan and fight Dracula. Hell, the TSR guys' characters built a catapult to Mars! There's an element of the whimsical that wasn't necessarily innocent or naive or 'Disney' – it was just… simple and very liquid. It could move from Gonzo to bleak in a moment, and then move back.

    It's hard to have a sense of 'place' in gaming when you're not collecting or chasing fads or into the 'gamer lifestyle' (whatever the fuck that is). I like that people still make old school stuff for D&D and clones. I still see it as a dorky hobby and I still think of it fondly for that reason. The larger game-o-sphere (and, to a large extent, the game-designer-o-sphere) can go fuck itself. I have this game and all those worlds… and all those characters.

    D&D was dorky. So was Famous Monsters. Night Gallery. Graph Paper. History Books. Telescopes. Micronauts. Drafting pencils. Star Wars. Model building. Horror Movies. Electronics kits.

    No FLGS I've been to in the last year knows anything about 'Old School' stuff… at all. The new stuff… well, I'm a dork whose crunch-intolerant, so from the corporate view, I'm nobody's market.

    Most of the time, I just want to read some websites or blogs that celebrate the completely uncool, dorky bliss that the minis and the adventures and the dice can hold. Makes me feel less like a ghost.

    I wish I could have nostalgia with claws.

    Sorry for the rambling comment and the profanity.

  6. sirlarkins says:

    Preach on, Scott. And “Nostalgia With Claws” would be an amazing blog name. I wonder if it's too late to change mine?

  7. scottsz says:

    @sirlarkins: Can we start a secret, militant nostalgia group? I'm in.

    Do we get a secret base? Can we name the sharks with lasers after the Seven Dwarves? And can we call the secret supercomputer 'Mr. Roarke'?

  8. sirlarkins says:

    I'll get to work on a logo design and start shopping for extinct volcano islands to house our base. In the words of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, “IT! COULD! WORK!”

  9. scottsz says:

    We'll need geothermal, for sure.

    If you can find any with reasonably straight vents to the surface, that would be great. We'll want to be able to launch moon missions right away.

    I'll start looking at hydroponic gardening offerings.

  10. “D&D was dorky. So was Famous Monsters. Night Gallery. Graph Paper. History Books. Telescopes. Micronauts. Drafting pencils. Star Wars. Model building. Horror Movies. Electronics kits.” = awesome!

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