The Nostalgia Box Time Machine

The internal email pinged around the office – you could follow its arrival with the scoffs and muttering. Someone was selling a PlayStation 3 and using the company’s email to do it; what most people saw as a waste of company time and resources, I saw as a golden opportunity so, of course, I took it.  Not long after, the beautifully and seemingly unmarked console was making its way home with me in a blue plastic carrier bag laden with promise. All of the exclusive titles I could play… The Last of Us… Oh, I couldn’t wait.

Once plugged in I took a step back as it powered up; the orchestra tuning their instruments to the note of A while pixels floated with liquid motion across the screen. Those churning, fluttering “NEW TOY” spirals wiggled their way up my spine as I realised that not only could I play the shiny new copy of The Last of Us I’d managed to pick up, but also an entire back catalogue of games that were available on the PlayStation Store. “I’ll just take a browse”, I thought.

The first game downloaded was Crash Bandicoot: Warped. So many countless hours of my lonely teenage angst were whiled away dipping in and out of worlds, finding the easter eggs I’d sneakily looked up on the internet in IT class (long before we even had dial-up at home!), while I enjoyed not being a person for a bit. I’d abused one level so hard that eventually I could complete it with (no lie) my eyes closed just based on the sound effects and vibration feedback alone. It wasn’t so much a game as an everyday part of my life. It’s not just me either. My partner has been totally absorbed in Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix; a collection of his childhood. Neither one of us, despite sinking so much of our past into these games has found them in any way different or boring all these years on. If anything the whack of nostalgia has done nothing but remind us to stop being adults for a bit and savour the pleasures of being young.

One gripe with trips away with nostalgia is the dreaded “not ageing well” (as though a staple of your yester-years has taken the path of your once beautiful, successful, independent and unmarried aunt who couldn’t say no to one (or fifteen) too many cats and now stinks of wee and Murray Mints, and is no longer invited to Sunday lunch). It was something I was contemplating as my games loaded; am I going to curse downloading this? Have I outgrown its childish attitude and bulky graphics? I started the game.

The feelings brought forward just from the PlayStation logo alone were overwhelming. The chunky, multicoloured pixel-fest emblazoned my widescreen TV as though it had always belonged there. Compact VCR/TV combo? Who had one of those? And the audio… I repeated the game’s introduction word for word and, before I knew it I was back on that familiar level. Of course ten odd years (if not more) out of practise can do funny things to a fellow, so I didn’t attempt ‘my’ level blind folded, but I approached it with some gusto.

My partner stood wide eyed as I took to it as though wearing old (if not slightly soggy) favourite shoes. “I’ve never seen you do so well on a level in a game before… It’s just… Amazing” he mumbled as I bounded along The Great Wall of China on the back of a bouncy tiger. All I could think was “It hasn’t aged a day”. I was sat cross legged with my tongue poking out the side of my mouth (a bad concentration habit I ‘grew out of’ a long time ago) and the same old eager determination brewing in my stomach. It wasn’t perfect, and the PlayStation 3 controller felt anorexic by comparison with my faithful old analogue, but I was pretty darn close to a perfect score right off the bat and on my second run through I’d already nailed it.

The Last of Us still sits unopened in the bag it came home in; a travesty, I know, but after all these years we’re still not bored of these monuments of our past. One of the most popular games of the PlayStation 3 is just going to have to wait; we’re too busy invoking our younger selves.

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