Thursday, March 4, 2010

First-hand vs. Second-hand Nostalgia


I was pondering the concept of nostalgia vis-a-vis retrogaming, and I realized that there are two kinds of nostalgia: first-hand nostalgia and second-hand nostalgia. "First-hand nostalgia" (1HN) refers to that positive feeling that emerges when remembering something one directly encountered; for example, my remembrances of Super Mario Bros. and any positive feelings associated with it would comprise first-hand nostalgia. Conversely, in my estimation, "second-hand nostalgia" (2HN) refers to remembering what one experienced about something that was indirectly related to a first-hand nostalgia item; for instance, I never played Kid Icarus, but reading about that NES game and thinking about my experiences with that gaming system would comprise second-hand nostalgia.

From this point on, I will consistently refer to FHN and SHN when talking about games. Why? Because as I explore old games that I never got to play when those games were released (i.e. 15 years ago), I am finding that any positive memories that surface are mostly second-hand, or 2HN. An applicable example of this would be thinking about a movie from the 80s that I had heard about during the 80s, but never got a chance to see; yet, when I think about that movie (at least, any spurious information I have about that movie), I am reminded of the rad aspects of that decade.

Actually, I should then address third-hand nostalgia (3HN): positive feelings experienced with something with which one neither had direct nor indirect contact. A good example of this is that joyous feeling I get when I think about games like Super Metroid, Goof Troop, Mega Man, and other SNES games because I didn't own that system, and I never knew those games existed in the 90s, but when I look at those games now I am reminded of the decade during which I was in college and then in Japan.

Okay, so we have 1HN, 2HN, and 3HN. Confused yet? Here's the breakdown:
  • 1HN: Nostalgia related to something directly experienced in the time period during which that thing was relevant or contemporaneous.
  • 2HN: Nostalgia related to something that was not directly experienced, but known about during the time period that thing was relevant or contemporaneous.
  • 3HN: Nostalgia related to something that was neither directly experienced nor known about during its time of relevance, but has recently emerged because of current knowledge of that thing, which in turns stokes positive feelings about the time period or other items connected to that thing.
I hope that clears things up.


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