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Please avoid the nostalgia train

Nostalgia is being sold to you, and you’re buying it in truckloads

Copying and plagiarism happen all the time around you and is often used to ride trends. Take the sudden burst of Battle Royale style games on every platform as an example. But it’s a whole different ball game, when the act of copying picks a source from the past (often itself), announces the copying openly and sells it to you as nostalgia. We, the customers, the end users, end up buying in troves.

Finn Wolfhard in Stranger Things (left) and IT (right). It’s like they aren’t even trying to convince us.

Look anywhere, almost anywhere, in recent times and you’ll find nostalgia driving sales. One of the most popular TV shows in the past couple of years has been about a bunch of kids in the 80s having a supernatural/sci-fi adventure. In 2017, 14 out of the top 20 blockbusters in Hollywood were parts of franchises. And many of the rests featured stories set just far enough in the past to inspire a sense of longing in the current audience, like Lady Bird set in 2003 or Stephen King’s IT set in the 80s (once again, a bunch of kids in the 80s having a supernatural/sci-fi adventure, see where we’re going?).

Nintendo made a huge splash when they launched the Switch. Yet, some would say that their relaunch of the three decades old Super NES generated as much interest in gamers as the former. Is it really a surprise that the Switch itself owes significant credit to the Legend of Zelda: BotW game that accompanied it? And now we have the new Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, which is out and out a remaster from Microsoft with no delusions.

Did HMD have a head start thanks to Nokia’s nostalgia value?

Gaming isn’t the only part of the tech world that suffers from this. Take a look at Nokia. Isn’t it ironic that a brand that disappeared from the tech world because it failed to change with the times, is now being used to sell its own classic models? Of course, they also have a lineup that would probably be ignored, as just another Android manufacturer, if it didn’t bear the Nokia name.

You don’t have to look beyond our country all the time to spot this trend either. Bollywood music today is undergoing a period where every single movie’s soundtrack needs to have a remake of a popular 90s or 80s song – sometimes with no explanation or relation to its presence in modern times. But then, it’s not really fair to expect logic from quite a lot of Bollywood movies, is there?
If for a moment, you look beyond the world of geeks, you’ll spot similar trends across many areas. Nike’s self-lacing shoes got much lesser hype than its relaunched Air Jordans. Why is this trend taking over?

Nike’s Hyperadapt got much lesser hype than its relaunched Air Jordans

The first answer is that it is easy. We live in a time when personal contact and attention spans have been reduced to their lowest ever levels thanks to technology, which also makes it easier to dwell on digitized memories in high definition. Studies have shown that people can literally use nostalgia to feel warm in cold places. Another factor is money. People who were kids 30 years ago now have money to spend, so it makes sense to sell this warmth to them, especially if it reminds them of a time when they used to actually meet friends in real life as compared to social media today, among other things.

Our only problem with this is how it is often shamelessly used as a tactic to sell things that would have no value without their legacy. It is almost akin to using a cheat code to get ahead of your competitors who are actually trying to put new, fresh stuff out there. It also adversely affects creators and designers, who are forced to dig into archives and past work instead of using their creativity to come up with ingenious stuff.

So stop buying into the nostalgia trend if you don’t want to end up in a society stuck in a time loop of reliving the past. It would do you, the industry, and most importantly, the creators a world of good.

Arnab Mukherjee

Arnab Mukherjee

A former tech-support desk jockey, you can find this individual delving deep into all things tech, fiction and food. Calling his sense of humour merely terrible would be a much better joke than what he usually makes.