Mining for Nostalgia
Nostalgia is a hell of a thing. Remembering the savory taste of turkey that grandma would cook at Thanksgivings, the music that filled the gym as awkward teenagers stared across the room at one another during school dances, the video games we couldn't beat, but still played relentlessly for days on end until our thumbs were sore.
The memories of these bring back feelings of happiness, of the “good times;” but there is one particular toy that hits my nostalgic bone over and over, and that's Legos. It's because of that strong nostalgic connection to Legos that I, along with millions of others have, which makes games like Minecraft and Terraria so popular.
I've been addicted to sandbox creation games for a long time, and oh lordy, they trigger the nostalgia in me somethin' fierce! They're more or less video game Legos, and that alone is almost enough to win over the hearts of a lot of people, young and old; but throw in some interesting added mechanics, some exploration, randomly generated worlds, combat, crafting, and so on, and you end up with something quite interesting.
The beauty of playing with Legos as a child was the seemingly infinite amount of creativity children have. You don't just build a castle with plastic blocks, admire it, and move on. If you did, you're probably in the running for the award for most boring person. No, the building was only the beginning.
It was the stories you created around the buildings that brought the most enjoyment. We simply set the stages for our Lego actors to move upon and weave our stories. Perhaps that castle was home to an evil dragon, and your heroic Lego knight ventured to slay it and save some damsel in distress. Or perhaps it was home to a beautiful and powerful queen. The choice was yours, and it was ALWAYS yours.
In these sandbox games, you start with your world, and you build whatever you want in that world; and like Legos, when you're done, you can begin telling your stories, even including friends in on the fun if you want. Create characters for your stories, weave an intricate lore for the history of your world, the choice is yours.
I've spent an insurmountable number of hours with friends in Minecraft, Terraria, and StarMade, just fleshing out the lore we were writing, and continuing it. Prophetic heroines traveling to save the world from the treacherous clutches of a demon, all while learning more of the world they lived in, all the while my friends and I created that very world, or destroyed it, as the story would call for. It was all up to us.
That's what feels so great about playing these games. The freedom to make the choices we want, and the warming feeling of nostalgia. And with the resounding success the Minecraft, Terraria 1.2 on the way soon, Starbound looming in the near future, and StarMade continuing its development, it's looking to be a successfully growing genre that will continue to thrive.