Big Picture: "In Defense of Nostalgia"

Extremely happy with this particular episode.

ALSO: I’m back on “Extra Consideration” this week (and presumably next) with Yahtzee and Jim Sterling, good guys both.

27 thoughts on “Big Picture: "In Defense of Nostalgia"

  1. Ralphael says:

    Can't decide on whether I like the episode for actually being about the big picture, or dislike it because I just got a “perspective” lecture from someone who has very little.


  2. Sylocat says:

    An amazingly insightful episode.

    And it's great to see Extra Consideration back, I was worried that was gone forever, even before the Extra Credits fiasco there hadn't been one for weeks. Was it just the behind-the-scenes drama keeping it away?

    In other news, this video has greatly reduced my hatred for Jim Sterling (his message is something that I've been saying for years, AND it's a point that is actually new in the mainstream gaming journalism discourse), so I'm actually not all that disappointed to see him on the panel, even though I disagree with him more often than not.


  3. rm says:

    Excellent analysis and another classic “Big Picture.” Why are the “good old days” to those “restore our past values” people always in the, well, old days. Why is their idealized totally out-of-whack-with-how-the-world-actually-works, overly-narrow-focused Utopia in the far off past where they have vague (if any) memories of the realities that time? I mean if one is going to pine for some made up fairytale land where that person's (usually narrow and me-centric) worldview is universally accepted as righteous, why not shoot for one that coexists in a time with say flatscreens. and unicorns for everyone. Since they're equally realistic. Was it 'tech-nol-oh-gee' that brought about 'teh badz'?


  4. Adam says:

    An interesting episode. When it comes to pop culture nostalgia I tend to be very casual towards my view of it. Case in point I just got a PS2 this year and the only games I tend to buy within the same month they’re released these days are Nintendo ones. I don’t take pop culture very seriously because it makes up a very small part of my life. It’s my escape; not my reason for being. It is interesting how serious some people take pop-culture nostalgia. Just yesterday Nintendo revealed the official box art to Zelda: Skyward Sword and right away people began analyzing the vague symbols in the background. I discovered that not only has Nintendo created enough letters to form actual words in “Hylian”, there are people who can actually read it.

    When people argue against Nintendo nostalgia goggles if you take away the “All the games are the same” commentators I find that the rest of them tend to be arguing not that Nintendo aren’t doing anything new with Mario and Zelda, but that they’re STILL making Mario and Zelda. This I admit has a point to it. Video games are comparatively young medium next to novels or even movies, and while my knowledge of art history isn’t the greatest I don’t think any medium has run into full blown sequelitis as quickly and completely the way games have. (I also don’t think that the rise of geek culture in movies leading to many more big ticket sequels in recent years to be coincidental). Thing is this doesn’t bug me in games because the people making those arguments also frequently are the major proponents of the “games are ART” debate, and that’s just never grabbed me as something to be passionate about. It’s cool if you are and you could even say I’m part of the problem (if you do consider it a problem); I probably am but still I really don’t care enough about it. I just want to play my games.

    When it comes to politics I see what Bob’s getting at but can’t go all the way. I tend to be middle of the road politically because neither party truly speaks for me. While I readily get behind the view that legal gay marriage and non-white people rising and having a greater stake in society will not be the end of the world, I can’t automatically vote Dem because the left most certainly does not speak for me on many other things. When talking politics with my friends it becomes frustrating because to my more left leaning friends Progressive/Change automatically equals good and Traditional automatically equals bad/archaic regardless of the topic. This is why I get antsy whenever someone calls the Constitution a “living document”. No it was not perfect as written (3/5’s a person, etc. etc. etc.) but at its core it’s pretty damn impressive. And the people I personally know who most fervently argue for it being changeable and “updatable” aren’t usually advocating such small but important changes. Instead they’re advocating changes for how the system itself is setup in favor of how they wish the country was rather than how it was originally envisioned, and that just isn’t something I can get behind.


  5. TheDVDGrouch says:

    I think everyone goes through a nostalgic phase at some point in their lives watching the shows & movies & listening to the same music that meant something to them as children. And overall its a pretty nice thing.

    My only fear is something is something I believe Chris Hardwick said. The problem with the youth today is that nostalgia is catching up with itself. Kids in 4th grade long for the time when they were in 3rd grade.

    Overall very thought provoking episode as always.


  6. Sssonic says:

    I'm sorry, but what's your point? Yeah, there are real-life issues out there which have a greater impact on things, and we really shouldn't forget about them or not discuss them. No shit. But then, by that logic, why should YOU spend so much time and energy bitching about “Call of Duty” and the “Transformers” movies? I mean, after all, they don't do any real harm, any more so than any other popular trend in movies or games.

    But, of course, you're never going to stop bitching about those things, and I understand why. These things have personal significance to you, and to many others, and as such they're worth discussing too. In which case, citing the “Real World Issues” argument is really just a way of side-stepping having to ACTUALLY discuss pop-cultural Nostalgia, because as long as we do not assume that everyone who discusses the issue is also entirely tuning out any and all real-world issues, which I don't think is an unfair assumption to make, it's basically the same situation: people talking about things that have personal significance to them.


  7. Sssonic says:

    I also think it's somewhat erroneous to assume that pop-cultural Nostalgia is entirely disconnected from real-world Nostalgia as you seem to in this video, but that's a whole other line of argument.

    What's REALLY funny is that perspective is indeed the key to making sense of pop-cultural Nostalgia, just not the way you use it here. There are, in fact, great, valuable ideas in Nostalgic properties worth remembering and revisiting. I mean…an alien civilization of sentient machines whose civil war spills over to our own planet? Humanoid cats who attempt to preserve their Code of values while protecting their newfound neighbors? A version of Conan with an actual moral compass instead of a nihilistic bloodlust, living on a world where Science and Sorcery intersect? These are BRILLIANT premises, filled to the brim with everything fans of Scien-fiction and fantasy could want: wildly creative visuals, strong story-arcs and vibrant characters, and themes and ideas worth exploring. And that's purely going off the 80's properties that were explicitly designed to sell toys. Expand the scope even a little, and things look even more interesting.

    Perspective, of course, is needed to remind us that the realization of those ideas we grew up with were, in fact, kid's shows, often with more of an eye toward selling us stuff than realizing the premise's potential, often made with crude animation and formulaic writing. As such, judging the shows themselves requires that adjustment; I'm not going to show the “He-Man” or “Transformers” cartoons as examples of great animated series, because I know they weren't, but they WERE decent-to-good kid's shows which managed to grab my imagination in a big way, and that counts for something too.

    And THEN, when we decide to revisit those ideas…just think about all the stuff left that could be done with them.


  8. TheAlmightyNarf says:

    @ Sylocat

    I have to disagree with Jim Sterling on that… Childishness does not win debates, at least not against someone who knows how to build a proper argument. The problem is that many people from the, for lack of a better term, “nerd” community seem to have this bizarre belief that because they are “right” they'll automatically win any debate about the issue… as if being right had anything to do with who wins a debate. As such they tend to have extremely poor debating skills and'll get stomped all over by someone with even the slightest ability to control a debate.

    Facts and evidence in a debate are like the cards in a poker game. The person who wins isn't the one with the best hand… it's the person who's most skilled at playing whatever hand they happen to have.


  9. AC says:


    I come here for the geek stuff, obviously, but I'm glad you feel free to branch out a bit like this, and encourage you to do so more in the future – as long as you can keep the hardcore nerd stuff coming too! Completely agree with both sides of your premise. I remember being very offended by the new Chipmunks “remake” movie until I remembered the cartoon I grew up with wasn't the original either. Ditto GI Joe, Conan, Superman, etc. (Superman has always been the same!…for about 30 years now).

    As for the cultural side, I love that people can straight-facedly promote a return to a previous age…by tweeting from their iPhones. Oops. Guess we want to pick and choose what changes? Promote the good changes, suppress the harmful ones, but do it while looking forward, not back.


  10. biomechanical923 says:

    “Rose-colored visions of a good old yesterday that never really existed”

    What never existed, exactly? As I'm having trouble finding what you think never happened, or how you can even prove that it never happened.


  11. CraftyAndy says:

    @Sssonic good one. I agree a lot of shows back in the eighties don't hold up and only appealed to us because we were children. When we grow up we see the potential those shows had and could have if realized. For me it was the SATAM sonic series. For the shows and games there is always that “what could be” factor which is why you still have a batshit insane fan base…I really hope it's not because of the last dozen games.


  12. Aiddon says:

    Every time I hear Nintendo criticism I just remember that it's mostly plagiarized from Yahtzee and Spoony. Lack of “original” ideas, eh?

    I only read the MovieBob parts of Consideration; Jim I find to be insecure, sexist douchebag and Yahtzee has gotten boring and stale as a comedian/reviewer as well as a hypocrite.


  13. Pyrian says:

    What they do with a franchise is really much more interesting than what the franchise is. It's possible to make a new setting that's stale on arrival, and it's possible to spin fresh gold from a tired old property.


  14. john says:

    Did I miss something? When did The Big Picture turn into American Bob? Because wow, garden-variety left-ish lecturing about the dangers of people whom nobody besides themselves take seriously to begin with and who don't actually have anywhere near the pull they think they do is totally not what I tune into this show for.


  15. motyr says:

    Speaking of nostalgia, a question often enters my mind regarding the problem of “nostalgia” increasing the perceived “value” of a given work.

    The most relevant “geek” example I can think of is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, often touted as the greatest video game of all time. There are adventure games that have come since that have been more technically impressive, have had tighter controls, and have had more balanced gameplay (viz. have been objectively better in just about every way one would measure the “value” of a video game.) Yet, just about anybody who was an active gamer in the mid-90s will undoubtedly consider OoT to be of higher “value” than most, if not all, modern adventure games.

    It brings into question the significance of “legacy” when determining how objectively “good” a video game (or any work for that matter) may or may not be.


  16. Hyrabethian says:

    Bob, I got nothing against nostalgia for Mario/Zelda/any old Nintendo series. Hell, you and me are the same age, I experienced the 80s and 90s the same way you did so Mario, Zelda, mean as much to me as they do you when it comes to nostalgia. But honestly, when you're doing the GameOverthinker, it seems you do nothing but attack most of today's games. Calling them film rip offs, for instance I know what you'd say for Deus Ex: HR, you'd call it a tired attempt at re-imagining Bladerunner. Or Fallout series a tired attempt at re-imagining Mad Max.

    I've hardly heard you make any positive acknowledgement about new games except maybe Bioshock or Batman:AA. And honestly, this is the best times for video games, gaming has more to offer now than it ever did, and I can apply the same argument you have for recycling old ideas you have for movies as I have for games (the argument that nothing is original).

    As a game critic, I can't take you as seriously as I do with your critics in films or politics for that matter. All you come across as is that bias bitter Nintendo guy that demands nothing but retro games. You're a niche voice with the potential to have a lot more to say then you do with gaming.

    And sometimes I wonder if you've ever even played half the “new” games you tend to criticize. For instance, have you played Mass Effect yet, any of the Fallout games, Deus Ex, Assassin's Creed, anything other than Call of Duty and Halo? I mean I've seen you criticize Call of Duty and Halo to death, but that's not all gaming today has to offer.


  17. ssmit says:

    Where to begin?
    Unfortunately Bob while I enjoy and appreciate your insights into the world of cinema your political musings are at best sophomoric.

    First of all, your characterizations of the tea party are flat out wrong. You, most your commenter and dare I say most liberals do not understand the tea party and do not seem to have a wish to do so. Thus is an effort to quantify that which you do not understand, or perhaps merely fear, you assign the tea party a series of characteristics that do not exist. These characteristics run the usual gamut of liberal bugaboos that range from racism to theocratic tendencies to corporate manipulation and are all equally wrong. Here is where I usually get interrupted by liberals with the claim I, an actual member of the movement, do not know what I am talking about while they, frequent viewers of late night comedy shows, do.
    But of course this is about the particular charge that you leveled, namely that tea partiers are blind traditionalists that are motivated by nostalgia for the 50s. Like most of you political opinions, this is dead wrong.
    In policy terms the 50's were actually an era of high taxes and frequent government intervention in the economy, two things that the tea party is most opposed to. If you must assign an era to the tea parties you would be better off using the 80's along with a grab-bag of other ideas taken from throughout American history.
    What is particularly ironic about your video is that if any group in American politics seems to exhibit the nostalgia that you rail against it is the Democrats. Democrat policy is either stubborn adherence to policies developed in the 60's and 30's, despite massive evidence that they are unsustainable, or a return to policies from those eras that have been defunct for decades. Even the hostility to the tea party can be fit within this matrix (the need to identify a new enemy to rail against in order to avoid the fact that 60's era radicals are the MAN now.)
    In conclusion, you are wrong on just about everything in the political sphere. Stick to movies.


  18. cathal says:

    Yep, no way that episode about nostalgia could have gone in any other direction.

    “Nostalgia for the way things were when you were young isn't the problem. You know what is the problem? REPUBLICANS.”

    I'd love to see how you order a sandwich.


  19. 0xFADE says:

    It does sound like pretty extreme Hubris to think that things have to change. Just because we have electricity doesn't mean we are more intelligent then people of the past. If standard youtube videos are any proof I don't think intelligence is very important nowadays.


  20. Sam Robards, Occasional Gamer says:


    I agree 100% with your sarcasm.

    Really, Bob?

    It's like you just wanted to complain about politics, but then realized no one watches American Bob, so you shoehorned it into one of your good shows.

    That being said, thinking that Republicans are the only ones pining for the “good ole days” is pretty silly, considering that American Liberals want to tax the rich into oblivion based on a political philosophy created in the 1800's.

    Everyone's afraid of change: that's just the way it is.


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