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Nostalgia

An Ode To My Beloved Council Estate

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The sun sets and the light dips, bends and smashes against the side of a block of flats.

“Let there be light!” As I sit staring through my office window at a tiny bug strangulated by a spider web.

The golden spotlight hovers over the council estate across the road, and my mind takes a quick two step back to when we were children of misfits. Creating a world of adventure amongst the empty carrier bags, graffiti brickwork and uneven pavements.

It was time when community meant that you actually knew your neighbours. Yes, even the shouty old dude 3 doors down who always refused to throw our ball back. And the Asian family opposite who celebrated a wedding for about a month, with saffron coloured garlands draped from the garden fence.

It was time when the street lights dictated your curfew.

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It was time when your lungs would collapse with exhaustion from archaic primitive forms of play. Curbsy, Bust 21, fashioning a broken twig to the spokes of my BMX to make it sound like a motorbike.

It was a time when an adult regardless of whether you knew them or not, had the authority to scold you with words like, “get down off that wall you little shit!”

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It was a time when hanging out at the end of your road in the summer holidays meant innocent magical times, devoid of intimidation and adolescent tomfoolery.

It was a time when you knocked the front door of your friend’s house, waited patiently, and then addressed the grown up with the correct Mr or Mrs prefix, asking if your friend could come out to play.

It was a time when everyone gathered en masse if a fight kicked off with a warring enemy estate. Huddled together, not entirely sure what you could offer except a splash of bravado and shouts of “wanker” from afar.

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It was a time when skipping over broken glass, used condoms and pages ripped from a pornographic magazine, paved the way to the local derelict park. Broken swings wrapped around the metal frames and a slide everyone was too scared to go on because someone’s dog had shat all over it last week.

It was a time when we were told to avoid the scary piss stained alleyways at night, and to never engage in conversation with the man who had the odd but purposeful walk.

It was a time when normality meant watching your father coax a young suicidal lad from the rooftop of the flats. Or watching your best friend’s sister being punched across the garage forecourt by her abusive husband.

It was time when the shrill car sirens of Babylon muddled with raised voices, offered the backing track to many theatrical evenings.

It was a time when your childhood innocence was inhaled greedily like a class A substance by the lewd, smiling face of the man your parents warned you about. The man with the odd purposeful walk. The man who openly stroked his penis in front of you that one time you stood outside the corner shop waiting for your mum.

It was a time when you were too busy playing to notice it was in fact the last time you would be out playing. It was a time when you grew up.

Friends moved away and your once loved village of urbanite warriors, fractured into pockets of race wars, drug dealers and the classless act of unwanted furniture being brazenly dumped in the middle of your road.

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It was time to leave.

The sun sets and the light dips, bends and smashes against the side of a block of flats. I retreat into the comfort of my overpriced office chair and remove my rose-tinted specs. But just for a moment.

Why Is Retro Gaming So Popular : The Science Behind The Fun

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The average age of someone who identifies as a retro gamer is apparently 34 years old. And by ‘retro gamer’ I mean someone who likes to get overly animated when it comes to the old skool classic consoles of Atari, Sinclair Spectrum, Amiga and of course the more well-known Nintendo, SEGA and Sony PlayStation. Playing video games that date back to the 1980s and 1990s is not just an aimless meander down memory lane for those who are hiding from the 21st Century. (well… ok… sometimes this is true!) It’s more about the nostalgic feels that makes us warm and fuzzy as we indulge in our whimsical childhood memories. Memories of button bashing the hell out of Street Fighter or advancing through levels of Sonic resonates with the adult version of you.

The earliest game console came on the scene in the 1970s. It was called a Magnavox Odyssey and was the first commercial home gaming console. The monochrome screen brought the delights of the classic game Pong. In the late 70s/early 80s you had the explosion of Atari with such titles as Asteroids, Centipede, Breakout, Pitfall and the first game I ever played, Frogger. You may have also embraced the 8-bit likes of a Commodore 64, Sinclair Spectrum or Amiga. And then moving into the 1990s there was the great console wars between SEGA and Nintendo.

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As we entered the 21st century, ‘old’ gaming consoles were considered obsolete and terribly uncool with many folk opting for technological advancements with enhanced graphics, better audio, faster processors and the need for an immersive, layered story when it came to their gameplay experience.

We’ve come a long way from the simplicity of Pong to the latest stunning visuals of Zelda!

We’ve come a long way from the simplicity of Pong to the latest stunning visuals of Zelda!

Collaborative games became ‘a thing’. Online gaming was where the party was at… And if you could play games on the move from your mobile phone, then you were winning at life. Convenience and speed were considered paramount in a world where we desperately needed to experience every-damn-thing in real time. Nobody had time for loading a game anymore or troubleshooting a heavily pixelated frozen screen by blowing into the cartridge!

The big game developers were consistently creating award winning games and even indie game studios were regularly releasing huge hits. The gaming industry was doing just fine… but as if from nowhere, people began dusting off their old childhood consoles and scouring the internet for second hand classics.

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There was a resurgence in vintage items and memorabilia, and with that forgotten names like Atari, SNES, SEGA Mega Drive and Gameboy were once again thrust into the public over 30 years later. What the hell was happening and what brought this huge wave of popularity with retro gaming??

Money

Some say that the expense of modern game consoles like Xbox, Switch and PlayStation are making the 30-something year olds revolt back to simple, cheaper forms of gaming. To be a modern gamer you have to be willing to spend your fun tokens on add-ons, expansion packs, upgrades and in-game purchases just to complete a game. Whereas old skool gamers can play a retro video game from start to finish with only being out of pocket for the price of the game itself.

Resilience

Durability is also a huge pull for vintage video game systems. You should be able to dig out a SEGA Mega Drive from hibernation in the attic with a little wipe, and then kick off a game immediately. Whereas the newer gaming consoles would probably have a system meltdown if you tried rebooting it after it was dormant for 20 years. There is a warm reassurance you get with older game consoles that is completely absent from the fancy pants machines we have now.

Superiority and Simplicity

Another argument is that the old games and consoles from the 80s and 90s are just better and gamers are simply favouring these over the modern titles. It’s not just about the technology and build of the games and the consoles, but also about the characters like Pac-Man, Link from Zelda, Sonic and Mario who all captured the imagination of an entire generation which can be lacking in contemporary games. Yeah sure the graphics are immense… but if the narrative sucks then what’s the point? Many retro gamers also champion the simplicity of gameplay from back in the day. There were no online video tutorials or walk through cheats to download. You had three lives and you kept on going no matter how hard and fast the game evolved.

All of the above are of course factors in the ever-rising reputation of retro gaming, but I think it’s the power punch of nostalgia that has made us want to rekindle the magic!

Nostalgia is understood to be a mix of bittersweet emotions both negative and positive. They are anchored to memories of meaningful events and intrinsically linked to relationships. There are also two main triggers. External triggers can be a song on the radio throwing you right back to a school disco or a smell which reminds you of Sunday lunch at your nans. Internal triggers are the emotions that are brought on by feelings of boredom and loneliness. The number one thing that nostalgia has been proven to do, is to promote well-being and mental health especially for those living with dementia.

The force of nostalgic marketing is fierce! Gaming companies jumped on the idea of bottling nostalgia and they did it well by reproducing old consoles with new tech like the SNES Mini and SEGA plug and play consoles. You could now play 16-bit classics on a modern HD television with wireless controllers if you wanted to. It was seen as the picture-perfect marriage between old and new. When Nintendo released the NES Classic in 2016, they sold out of all 2.3 million of them. This Christmas the classic Sony PlayStation mini version will be available and is already tipped to be just as popular.

We get excited about classic video games just like we do old films and music. Kids of the 80s and 90s are now reliving their youth through fairly inexpensive retro game consoles, and we are now old enough to be able to afford the art of playing! The pleasure of indulging our nostalgia has paved way for the huge hype in all things retro with no clear signs of it being ‘Game Over’ anytime soon!

 

 

The N Word Project: Music Therapy For Dementia

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We’ve all been there. Aimlessly staring out of the window of a bus with our headphones on, watching the raindrops chase each other down the glass as we genuinely believe that we’re in a music video! And then all of a sudden, a song from our youth leaks into our consciousness and unexpectedly makes our heart thump with pleasure. The first few bars, verse or an 80s power ballad key change evokes a feeling that is impossible to replicate at will. It’s a song that punches you right in the adolescent feels and you bloody love it!

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Music has the extraordinary ability to transport us all to a place usually in our childhood or a vivid nostalgic memory. It triggers a scene in your head where you can not only see the moving pictures, but you can feel the raw emotions that particular song has sparked especially if the memory is a sad one. I can still hear Blackstreet ‘No Diggity’ blasting from the car stereo of a lad’s Ford Fiesta after I told him I fancied him when I was 16… and he responded with turning the volume up! The salty sting of humiliation is still strong 20 years later!

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The idea of a ‘memory bump’ or a ‘reminiscence bump’ is a psychological term used to determine the age at which we would have likely had an emotional connection to music. This has been identified as being between 10 – 30 years old with a higher concentration of memories in our early 20s. For example, if someone wanted to unlock my brain and pin point the type of music I instantly resonate with (that could also potentially make me fall off a treadmill at the gym in a euphoric frenzy), it would be 90s RnB with a little bit of early 2000 cheesy pop from my hazy days at university.  

This is my nan Theresa. She’s 86 years old. She wears layers on top of layers which never made sense. She always asks me if I’ve eaten. She used to make amazing curry goat with rice and peas. She repeats the same questions every few minutes. She’s hilarious. She’s still very much awesome. She has dementia.

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The last time I visited her we had great chats and laughs, and she knew exactly who I was. The next day my uncle said, “So you got to see Shem yesterday!” And she replied with a blank stare as if he was making outlandish statements. She had no recollection of me being there and it’s shit like that which hurts my heart.

My nan loves nothing more than sitting in her armchair listening to gospel or country music. That is where she’s happiest and when she’s more like the nan I knew. I once wrote in a story, “Music was a time machine. It had the power to pick me up like a claw machine at a seaside arcade and then drop me down in a memory I thought I had lost.” And I have never felt those words more than I do when I look at my nan smiling at a music DVD of Daniel O’Donnell!

By 2025, 1.1 million people are expected to be living with dementia in the UK.

The power of music therapy connecting with an individual and unlocking a part of their brain they never knew still worked, is old news. Yet, even with this knowledge only 5% of care homes offer a decent music program for dementia patients. There are however some care homes leading the way with music programmes that are created by dementia charity Playlist For Life. And those nursing homes advocating and implementing these musical activities have recorded big reductions in patients using anti-psychotic meds to control their dementia with as much as a 60% decrease.  

Playlist For Life is an awesome resource that not only allows you to create a musical playlist for people living with dementia, but they have tools and training to help carers integrate music into an individual’s life. They have also recently collaborated with the BBC to bring Music Memories which is a website designed for those with dementia to re-establish a link to memories. It’s essentially a database of 1800 songs from the last 100 years including TV theme tunes. After selecting a genre and decade, you are given a list of songs to play. You can then share your playlist (with a few personal background details) to help others discover music that may help someone else. 

A video went viral in 2014 from the documentary Alive Inside that featured an old dude called Henry with Alzheimer’s whose face exploded with animation after listening to his iPod. That clip not only made me ugly cry, but it also proved exactly how the force of music drags out the person who we think maybe lost, when in fact they’re just taking a little nap until their jam comes on!  

If you know anyone who is living with dementia and you’re finding it hard to verbally communicate with them, then throw on a CD you think they would love or create a bespoke playlist just for them… and let the music form a conversation.

 

The N Word Project : Nostalgia Marketing

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The wave of nostalgia in the form of tech is at its highest. Big brands and bloggers like myself are tapping into the sentimentality of childhood memories. The difference with me versus some of the big businesses is that a) I only share things I believe are genuinely cool and think my audience will like and b) I'm Forest Gumping my way through with no real plan! Here is a visual representation:

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Remember those wistful hours spent playing your favourite video game? Well advertising companies are essentially punching us millennials in the feels, so we empty our wallets... and it's working! With releases of classic game consoles like the SNES Mini and other retro gaming emulators that offer you a gazillion video games, the strong stench of a yesteryear is here, and the world of advertising is cashing in. Yes fine friends, nostalgia marketing is a thing!

Companies for a long time now have recognised the value of nostalgia in the media and getting us hooked!

Well... obviously! A fine example of nostalgia being awesome and super popular!

Well... obviously! A fine example of nostalgia being awesome and super popular!

With technology especially gaming, the brains behind a marketing campaign figures that if they can evoke the playful feelings of you button bashing Track & Field on the Game Boy, then they will use this to make you throw money at whatever they are selling. Is it a trap? Yes. Is it clever? Yes. Are you still going to buy an Atari handheld gaming console? Shut up and take my money!

The trickery brands use to gain the interest of the consumer is simply to form an emotional connection to whatever they are selling. If the brand can resonate with positive memories, then the battle to sell us stuff we never thought we needed is already half won. Basically, the better we feel when using a product coupled with shouts of “Oh my god I remember that!” the more likely we are to add it to our basket when shopping online. #drunkonlinepurchases. The thing is… even though I know it’s all marketing wizardry set out to piss off my bank balance… I’m still probably definitely gonna buy into it because I lack self control!

Conjuring emotions for an inanimate object is a very powerful marketing tool. We know that buying a retro games console will give us an immediate fuzzy glow of satisfaction as soon as we slam Super Mario Kart into a SNES! It's these warm comforting emotions that encourages us to spend all the money on things we never need but simply want… because reasons! 

Studies on nostalgia tells us that it has the power to combat loneliness, anxiety and even boredom. As well as making us feel lightheaded and physically warm, nostalgia can make us more understanding, tolerant and generous to strangers. Old happy memories have also been noted to aid us in difficult transitional moments of our lives and help us feel more resilient in stressful situations. In short... nostalgia is a kick ass, potent, psychological phenomenon which makes selling us retro inspired shit so damn easy! The concept is so very easy, but super powerful!

I HAVE THE POWEEEEEEEERRRRR!

I HAVE THE POWEEEEEEEERRRRR!

Nostalgic strategies employed by advertisers help mask over the complexities of our current life with a giant, rose tinted, blast from the past plaster. In a world where instant gratification is deemed the holy grail of adult life, the N Word plays magnificently into that concept.

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So, continuing with the second round of The N Word Project is Naoise O’Hare from Retro Gamer Ireland who basically is a retro gaming extraordinaire from Dublin. I stumbled across his blog and got insanely jealous at his Instagram account that showcases all his retro video game consoles and games. Go check him out post haste and follow him all the way to the Shangri-La of retro gaming wonderment!

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Have you always been into retro gaming or did you pick this up later on in life?

I started out playing the Nes, then Snes and so on. Over the years I went along with the times and played modern gaming and left the oldschool stuff in the past. It wasn't until about 5 years ago that my girlfriend surprised me with the gift of a Super Nintendo that my love of retro games was sparked.

What made you want to start your website Retro Gamer Ireland?

I was having a lot of fun  using Instagram as a micro blog but wanted to share more in depth thoughts on retro gaming. I tried YouTube but it wasn't for me so I tried writing blogs and loved it so started the website.

What do you think it is about old skool games and consoles that makes it still so popular?

One word... Nostalgia.

What was your first gaming console?

The Nes and a copy of the Duck Hunt/Super Mario Bros cart. It's still one of my favourite consoles today.

What was your favourite video game?

The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I have so many fond memories playing it as a kid, and still love it to this day. It's a game that I will keep going back to for the rest of my days. 
 

What retro game throws you right back into being a kid again? (Mine is Streets of Rage on the Mega Drive!)

So many games take me back to the good old days, anything that I played as a kid will get the nostalgia flowing. One game that takes me all the way back is Super Mario Bros, one or my earliest memories is playing this game with my older brother Aodhan.

For me nostalgia and childhood memories make me feel like I’m hugging a hot water bottle or placing a warm towel over my eyes. What kind of emotions or imagery evokes nostalgia for you?

Any video game that I can remember playing as a kid will always fill me with nostalgia. Then certain tv shows and movies like the first 2 seasons of Pokémon and Power Rangers The Movie.

Do you think retro gaming will ever become uncool and die out as new technology booms (and the machines take over – Terminator style?!)

Haha, machines are already taking over! It wouldn't bother me if retro gaming became uncool because I'd be able to get retro games for cheap again if they did :D

If you had a time machine/Delorean, which age would you go back to and live for a week and why?

Probably the Christmas of 1997 which would make me 10. This is when my brother and I got the Nintendo 64 and it was one of my favourite Christmas holidays of all.

Do you think that it is unhealthy to still live in the past, using retro inspired toys, music and pop culture as a form of escapism?

Not at all. I'm definitely a creature of habit and I love playing the same old games over and over. I don't live completely in the past though as it's a hobby that I do in my spare time. For the most part I live very much in the present time and I'm not constantly trying to relive the past.

Does nostalgia and reminiscing about the good old days prevent us from moving forward and grabbing new adventures and opportunities?

I can't speak for others but it has never prevented me from moving forward and taking part in new adventures. Blogging about retro games has opened up so many new doors for me that I would never have been able to get to had I not been reminiscing of times long past. 
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The N Word : The Nostalgia Project

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I’m that person who can be found most days saying, “remember when…” with a warm glow in my heart as I fondly reminisce about a childhood memory. If I could camp out in 1992 with my Nintendo Game Boy, Captain Planet on a giant television set whilst wearing a highly flammable shell suit, then I would steal a Delorean time machine and make that shit happen! Nostalgic musings of awesomeness is where I shine brightest!

The sentimentality of a memory is an important component to life. It first emerged from the Greek words nostos meaning ‘homecoming’ and algos meaning ‘ache’. It was later coined in the 17th century to describe the medical condition of anxiety. Since then the word has spawned a slightly different meaning associated with romanticism and the longing for those ‘good old days.’ Nostalgia can be anything from a smell, to a touch to an event in one’s past. It can also be stumbling into your parent’s garage and finding forgotten bottles of Archers peach schnapps and Malibu rum that instantly throws you back to being a teenager... sleeping in fields with vomit in your hair!

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Nostalgia evokes strong vivid reactions in the human brain. The smell of freshly cut grass makes me think of playing football in the school holidays with my brother. This stimulus alone provokes once dormant memories to fizz in my brain and etch-a-sketch a little smile on my face no matter how much of a shitty day I may be having.

Although nostalgia was once considered in a negative light with images of melancholy, homesickness and anxiety, it is now thought of as a trope for improving mood and creating positive emotions. Nostalgia is also a fantastic coping mechanism when life smacks you in the face with adulting!

What is The N Word Project?

After spending an afternoon with my nan who has dementia, I decided that I wanted to explore what nostalgia means to different people. The potent power of childhood memories and past experiences are the things that keeps my nan smiling when she’s feeling confused with modern life, so I wanted to discover the importance of these reflective moments in our lives. The N Word Project is a collection of interviews with interesting folk as I try to figure out what nostalgia is all about.

First up is Brandon Felczer who part owns the amazing retro arcade bar Token in Dublin. They opened in 2017 and offer not only 30+ original video arcades and pinballs to play with, but also some seriously delicious gourmet food and of course booze to accompany all that gaming!

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How did you get involved in Token?

I arrived in Dublin in December 2016 with two suitcases and no idea what I was going to do! I had a dream to live in Ireland and I had 90 days to figure it all out. So, I was talking to friends and thought about setting up a restaurant or bar. My friends suggested a retro arcade bar because they’re really popular in the states. So, I Googled 'retro arcade bar Dublin' and an article from Lovin Dublin two years previous popped up. I decided to reach out via Facebook to the company and Nick the primary founder, and I asked to be involved… And here we are!

What do you think it is about Token that makes it so popular?

It’s unique! There is nothing like it in Dublin. It gives you something different to do other than just coming in and having something to eat or drink. It’s great as a date night venue, we do community events, there’s food challenges and monthly specials and we are always evolving making changes based on what we hear from customers.

For me nostalgia and childhood memories make me feel like I’m hugging a hot water bottle or placing a warm towel over my eyes. What kind of emotions or imagery evokes nostalgia for you?

For me it’s definitely retro graphics like the screens that you see, retro clothing and certain colours and old cars. I love what’s going on in Stranger Things and how you get sucked into this world of the past.

What was your first gaming console?

Super Nintendo! My uncle gave it to my me and my sister for a present and it was my first experience on a gaming console. Super Mario Bros! I was obsessed with it and haven’t stopped playing games since.

What was your favourite video game?

My favourite game isn’t actually a retro game but it’s the Unchartered Series. It’s amazing! It started on the Playstation and has four core games and one spinoff. That and The Last of Us. Amazing cinematics and all about the narrative. I really love narrative driven games that make you feel like you’re playing a movie.

What retro game throws you right back into being a kid again? Mine is Streets of Rage on the Mega Drive!

I would say Super Mario World and Zelda, especially Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. It’s won a lot of best game awards. It’s literally one of those masterpieces that has been untouched by time where you can keep playing it over and over and transports me right back to my childhood and trying to get through that water temple!

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Do you think Token taps into the sentimentality and fond memories of youth as a marketing tool?

Oh absolutely! It’s all about being a grown-up kid without the kids screaming around you! From 4pm daily we’re 18+ (age) So you can come in and be a kid again, play games and eat fun tasty food. It’s a place to come and let your guard down and just throw back to what you would do as a kid and also drink a little bit! All of our games have drink holders, so you can continue your sippage and sesh while you’re gaming!

If you had a time machine/Delorean, which age would you go back to and live for a week and why?

Oh my gosh! I’ll probably have to say 6th grade when I was 12. I think I finally came into my youth and got out of a really awkward phase! I had really fun friends where we played a lot of games. And Final Fantasy 7 was out! That’s actually up there with one of my favourite retro games as well. It was before you started working, but you still had some responsibility and you valued your free time with your friends and I filled a lot of my time with gaming. Yeah, I definitely would go back to when I was 12! Young, dumb, carefree, hitting puberty but it was a fun time!

Do you think that it is unhealthy to still live in the past? Does nostalgia and reminiscing about the good old days prevent us from moving forward and grabbing new adventures and opportunities?

I think it is totally fair to enjoy your past and relive some of that. But I think you should apply that to your mindset of today and how you are as a person. But it is kinda fun to let go of things and be transported to the past and put on a retro game and not worry about what’s going on in the world. It’s just dumb fun! And I think dumb fun is ok once in a while. I do believe your past is the past. Like if I had a time machine I would have the option to go back but I would also choose not to go. Because everywhere I’m at from the past has led me to where I am now, and I focus on that. I do reflect on the past, so I don’t repeat the same mistakes and I take my learnings forward, but I think you can separate out retro fun and dwelling too much on the past.