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Cosy blankets and controllers: games for nostalgia

The Secret of Monkey Island, video game, box art, featured image, Guybrush, Elaine, monkey, pirates
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Leaves changing colour, the air feeling cooler, nights getting darker.

There’s something about the autumn which makes it one of my favourite times of the year. The months running up to Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night and Christmas feel special, and bring back plenty of fond memories of the excitement gradually building for those events as a child.

This nostalgia always makes me want to return to the classic video games I played when I was younger, or newer releases which evoke the same feelings. Give me titles that can be played at a slower pace so I don’t have to rush, ones which are the perfect accompaniment to being on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate and our cat Zelda.

Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes has been talking about a similar subject recently in a post entitled My Cozy Blanket Nostalgia Games. He wrote last month: “For me, there isn’t a year that goes by where I don’t play one of a handful of titles that give me a strong sense of nostalgia. These are games I really enjoyed back when I was around 11 years old and replaying them feels like curling up in a warm blanket.”

I guess the most obvious game like this for me would be The Secret of Monkey Island. Most readers are probably aware by now that this was the first release I played and completed by myself when I was nine-years old. As explained during a post dedicated to Elise from Game Praisers last week, it formed the foundation of a lifelong love of adventures and I always find myself going back to point-and-clicks – in fact, they now account for over a third of my entire Steam library.

This nostalgia always makes me want to return to the classic video games I played when I was younger, or newer releases which evoke the same feelings. 

I’d say I end up replaying The Secret of Monkey Island every other year or so. Most recently was for GameBlast22 in February when Pete, friend-of-the-blog Phil and Ellen from Ace Asunder joined me in completing the first four Monkey Island titles over a long weekend. This was the perfect preparation for Return to Monkey Island being released in September. Picking up the latest instalment in the series made me feel like a kid playing the original all over again, but with a modernised control scheme and visual style.

I think that’s a point worth expanding on here. Autumn always gives me the desire to play the classic adventures again, but their mechanics can make them a little frustrating and pull you out of that ‘cosy blanket’ feeling. Although it can be satisfying to persevere when you’re in the mood, sometimes it’s better to play a modern release which has been inspired by them. Good examples here are The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow, one of the most atmospheric point-and-clicks I’ve played for a while, along with Unusual Findings.

I started the latter over the weekend and it’s proving to be hugely nostalgic for me, despite only being released last week. The fact that it’s a point-and-click obviously helps but the game combines several visual and audio elements which help to take me back to my childhood. The film posters dotted around the environments advertising movies such as The Black Crystal and Cornan the Barbarian, 80s synth soundtrack and references to highlights from the decade will bring a smile to the face of older adventure fans.

Jigsaw puzzles also seem to make a return for me during the autumnal months as they remind me of being a kid during school holidays. Many afternoons were spent at the table in my nan’s house where we’d sit together looking at the pieces, while an old film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would be on the television in the background. There was something calming about finding the edge pieces and then filling in the rest of the image, and we’d reward ourselves with a cup of tea and slice of fruitcake.

I still enjoy jigsaws nowadays but have a preference for those where creating the picture is just the first step. The EXIT: The Game range requires players to look for clues once the puzzle has been completed and use them to ‘escape’ a particular scenario. If you’re more of a detective, I can recommend Murder On The Underground from the Murder Mystery Case Files series. It won’t be the hardest case to solve but there’s a nice mix of jigsaws, physical evidence and real-world investigation to keep you entertained.

The most modern hit of nostalgia for me is The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). I started playing this at Christmas in 2015 after a friend gave me a stack of physical games to try out. Poor Pete was stuck in bed with flu at the time but once he was feeling better, we set up two televisions next to each other so we could play together during the rest of the festive period. The colder temperatures and darker nights always remind me of that time so it’s no wonder I find myself wanting to go back to ESO at this time of year.

I hadn’t played for several months but ended up creating a new Redguard Dragonknight character over the weekend. There was the possibility of returning to my Wood Elf Templar but there’s something irresistible and exciting about fresh starts. With The Witches Festival in-game event coming on Thursday in preparation for Halloween, perhaps I’ll be able to persuade Phil and Ellen to join me in slaying some monsters (although Pete will complain that he’s not starting a new character yet again).

Nostalgia doesn’t always have to be about a specific game or genre though. When I was a kid, I’d get up far earlier than my family and sneak downstairs so I could have the PC to myself, sitting there in my pyjamas with a bowl of cereal in one hand and the mouse in the other. This is still something I do nowadays when I have the opportunity. As much as I love the craziness that comes along with my husband and stepson, there’s something special about those hours when it feels like you’re the only one awake in the world.

Nostalgia has a strong pull and serves as a reminder of experiences we had in our youth which were truly fulfilling.

Several of my ‘cosy blanket’ choices above are the result of fond memories from my childhood. This is the case for Frostilyte too in his article, and also ties back to some of the points made in last week’s post about preferred genres. My gaming tastes may have evolved as I’ve grown older, but point-and-clicks will always be on top due to finding The Secret of Monkey Island all those years ago. Nostalgia has a strong pull and serves as a reminder of experiences we had in our youth which were truly fulfilling.

As Frostilyte asked last month: are there any games you go back to when you’re feeling particularly nostalgic?

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