I am both a sentimental old fool and a complete sucker for nostalgia. While I do try to not hang on to everything from the past — or worse, attempt to live in it — I confess to a deep affection for the good things of yesteryear and occasionally let my mind wander back to earlier days. This is particularly true when a thought or smell triggers a memory, and I chase the feeling of that for a while.
Sometimes, you really can’t go back. I can’t, for instance, return to my grandfather’s house on the canals in Florida. He died over 20 years ago and other people are now living there. But in my mind, I can picture every room of that house, the smell of his fishing boat, the “secret” fort that my brothers and I built next door at the marina. Digging through those thoughts, even to details as trivial as what his fridge water dispenser sounded like and how the kitchen chairs felt when you sat in them, are crystal-clear when I dust them off. It’s comforting to me that they’re still lurking there in my mind, somewhere.
So maybe it’s not that surprising that when I go back to an old favorite MMO after a long break, I get a strong dose of the “feels.” I think it’s in part of all of these memories that had been filed in long-term storage once I left the game for a good amount of time being called back. There’s just this powerful, comforting, familiar feeling when I return to a game and am reminded of what I used to really like about it.
Thinking of this made me realize, once again, that an MMO is a whole sensory package. Oh, it doesn’t have smells (yet!) and taste (probably a good thing), but there is the muscle memory of the keyboard and mouse, the sights of the world, and definitely the sounds. Logging into LOTRO last week after almost a year away was like plunging back into a pool of sensory delights. I forgot how much that game excelled at environmental audio and creating a feeling of a real world around you. Likewise, World of Warcraft’s stylized art and audio cues are about as ingrained into my subconscious as my ringtone at this point.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that you sometimes see bloggers gushing when they return to an MMORPG after an extended absence. It’s the joy in being hit by those feels in the face, of rediscovering something that you didn’t really realize you had lost. Of knowing that it’s still there, still waiting. It’s a small opportunity to revisit the past even as we play into the future. Just one of the reasons that I like this genre, I suppose.