There’s been a lot going on in the world over the past week. None of which I feel particularly able to pontificate on given that I’m a white, middle-class male. In a time when the United States is literally on fire almost every night, I’ve found that my time is best focused on self-care and helping prop up the voices of those that need to be heard. And so, daily distractions and finding ways to keep busy have been on the menu. For gamers that usually means channeling our best packrat nesting tendencies, and going through old games and hardware. Even as we speak I have boxes of old tech sitting, sealed. Needing a bit of comfort and nostalgia I did something I haven’t done in almost five years and hooked my PlayStation 3 back up. Inside was a mix of cherished memories, nostalgia for a generation of gaming gone by, and a literal graveyard of dead games that either no longer function or don’t work as they were once fully intended.
Gaming nostalgia is tricky like that. Our playtime past can conjure up strange emotions, sense memories, and wistful regrets. These technological time capsules perfectly preserve a moment in time, leaving a digital footprint of where and who we once were. This is especially true with the PS3 generation and up, as everything from game saves to when you purchased and downloaded a title now as a timestamp and date slapped on it, forever marking a moment in time. For me, those memories on this PS3 are especially important because the saves and downloads are a literal roadmap of the early days with my wife and the start of our relationship.
Dates and downloads, saves and bought themes; all earmark a specific moment in time when she and I were still just dating and each game in the order listed tells a tale. That install of Marvel vs Capcom 2 dating back to our very first Valentine’s Day. A save file from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, last played on the day that she first stayed over at my apartment. Hundreds of hours spent on Super Street Fighter IV, all archived on this black box that was eight or so years of my life.
There’s comfort in returning to that, but also a realization of the cruelty that is the passage of time. As I approach 35 and realize that the time since I was in college is now the age of a tween it’s both a comfort and a moment of panic. “What year did that game come out? Really? Ugh.” was a constant thought in my head as I scrolled through the 50 or so odd games still sitting on my PlayStation 3. The other, more sobering aspect of this stroll down memory card lane was just how many of these games are either unplayable, close to it, or no longer available for purchase.
One game that my wife and I bought got into hardcore for a while was Gotham City Imposters, the team-based shooter made up of losers in bad Joker and Batman cosplay outfits. It was a quirky and fast shooter that we spent a ton of time playing together, and now it literally is unplayable on a console. Upon loading the game it says that it can’t locate GameSpy and just loops on the start screen infinitely. Other games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time Remastered and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World can’t even be purchased, meaning the versions on my console are the last holdouts of digital gaming erasure.
A digital time capsule, of what was and what will never be again.
I’m actually grateful for the chance to take a step back and look into the past as the future and PlayStation 5 grow ever closer. On a week when the PS5 reveal event was delayed due to the events of protests and demonstrations in almost every major city across the country, there was a bit of safety and shelter in booting up that PlayStation 3 and hearing the orchestra warm up once more. And this is what I mean about self-care, friends: Not all of us can act. Not all of us can protest. Not all of us can stand on the front lines of our beliefs and weather the storm as others do. And that’s okay. Sometimes the only and best can one can take in times of major historical strife is to take care of yourself and your own mental well-being so that you have the option to fight another day.
And maybe tomorrow will be the day I fight another day. But for now, I’ll settle for propping up the voices of creators and fellow black peers and rest my weary heart in nostalgia, ready for another day sometime soon.