Nostalgia is strange thing, and it’s difficult to quantify.
The most tragic thing about the closure of LucasArts is the loss of jobs, no question. But when the dust settles, when those that were made redundant finally settle into new jobs, new lives, what will hurt, and continue to hurt, is the legacy of lost work. Years of graft by hundreds of human beings passionate about their jobs . They will never enjoy the fruits of their labour, share that work with family, friends or the general public. That work will remain buried inside some dusty server in a locked room, never to be seen again. That’s a genuine cause for sadness.
But that’s not what’s upsetting the majority of gamers today. Sure, there were a handful of people excited about Star Wars 1313, and they’re angry at that missed opportunity, but for some strange reason gamers are far more upset about the games they’ve already played.
Overheard in the Kotaku office today: “Oh LucasArts, they made Day of the Tentacle… now I’m sad.”
People are upset because of some strange dialogue, some non-existent connection between the events of today and their own personal memories.
But while we all have our own very personal memories with multiple different Lucasarts properties, here’s the hard truth: our nostalgia is worthless. And I mean that in every sense of the word.
Our nostalgia is worthless because it literally has no worth. Unless that nostalgia can be monetised it simply will not save a company from closure. And since LucasArts was reluctant to engage with its storied history in the graphic adventure genre and content to release sub-par video games, draining its major brands of the power they once had.
Nostalgia can be a commodity, but only if you commoditise it.
But LucasArts chose not to, and that may have been the correct decision. Would things have been any different had LucasArts mined its back catalogue, created sequels for the games we once loved? Or would we have criticised them for relying on old IP, for not attempting something new. Would new adventure games have sold enough to justify their existence in a modern market? Maybe, maybe not. But, again, our nostalgia is worthless. The only thing worthwhile for a company like Lucasarts and a company like Disney is whether or not you’ll pay for the privilege.
We are sad because the company that once made games we loved is gone. I have that feeling, but I also recognise how impotent and silly it is. I have to genuinely question if Lucasarts, as a company, had the power to create a brand new video game that had the same power and influence over me as, say, The Secret of Money Island or Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Let’s be honest here, that was simply not going to happen for the majority of us.
So what are mourning here?
The games we loved still exist. They will most likely always exist. You could conceivably go home this afternoon and play Day of the Tentacle right now. Are we sad because we think that current events are actually in dialogue with our own memories? That they are somehow tarnished by the fact that Lucasarts, as an entity, no longer exists?
That idea might make more sense, but in some ways it’s even stranger. As human beings we should be sad for the people who lost their jobs, as gamers we should be sad for the games we never get to play.
But when a company like Lucasarts closes its doors for the last times, what really upsets us is the affect it will have on the memories we already have.
But in cases like this, our nostalgia is worthless.