Examining ‘Flash Game Nostalgia’

Flash Game Nostalgia is a digital artefact created on TikTok that explores nostalgia in relation to the video game genre of flash games. A psychoanalytic lens informed the analysis of this project looking at the technology of flash, genres within flash games, and nostalgia.

After my first blog post for the subject ‘Game Media Industries’ on the 1991 video game Lemmings and a discussion about nostalgic games in a tutorial, I was inspired to create a project looking at nostalgic flash games from my past.

Utility(s)

This project had two utilities for its audience. One was to create fun entertaining content for users so they would be able to reminisce and look back at the nostalgia of flash games.  The other utility was linked more deeply with my analytical framework as I aimed to create educational content for users to understand the impact of flash games and learn more about this genre in gaming history.

Background Research

PSYCHOANALYSIS AND NOSTALGIA

Psychoanalysis connects to nostalgia as it’s rooted in the “belief that all people possess unconscious thoughts, feelings, desires, and memories” (McLeod, 2019). Feelings of longing and sentimentality often accompany nostalgic memories, as “nostalgia is an emotional response to the recognition of an impossible return” (Casey, 2000, cited in Heineman, 2014). This nostalgic longing and the development of the World Wide Web have led to retrogaming as it is seen today (Heineman, 2014).

As technology evolves, those rooted in previous technologies will feel nostalgic and long for the things of their past. Psychologists have stated that elements of our past that we have a connection to act as symbols of a simpler time, and this is often when we are developing and understanding of ourselves (McFerran, 2012).

“For many millennials, the golden age of browser games from the early 2000s defined our formative online experiences.”

Jess Jono

ADOBE FLASH

By the end of the 1990s flash ran on 99% of online computers (Reeves, 2018). Despite this software being originally created for designers, it became “one of the most important programming languages in the video game industry and sparked the indie game revolution” (Reeves, 2018).

This is because the technology was easy to use for new game makers with little to no previous experience. Co-founder and CEO of the Flash games site Kongregate stated that “You started with art rather than with code, so a lot of people who wouldn’t have sat down and written object-oriented code could sort of baby step their way into very serious programming through Flash” (Reeves, 2018). 

Flash games were not limited to a single device or console and most flash games were decentralised and available on thousands of websites across the web (Richner, n.d.)

For many decades the release calendar for games was dictated by big publishers and gate keepers (Reeves, 2018). Flash was one of the first tools that allowed smaller video game makers and creatives to experiment with game design and creation, leading to the development of indie game design (Reeves, 2018).

GAME GENRES

One technological limitation of flash was that it wasn’t good at running first-person shooters like console and PC games, so there was a focus on strategy games (Jono, 2020). Flash game creators were forced to “innovate new modes of play that inadvertently attracted audiences outside the typical gamer” (Joho, 2020).

The invention of the tower defence genre led to the popular mobile game ‘Clash of Clans’ (Reeves, 2018), while the development of the 24/7 offline simulator genre led to games such as Farmville (Jono, 2020). The flash game ‘Crush the Castle’ also inspired the popular mobile game ‘Angry Birds’ (Jono, 2020).

Other flash games that led to the development of gaming genres included ‘Canabalt leading to the creation of the endless runner genre, and ‘The Crimson Room’ which led to the creation of escape rooms in video games and in real life (Richner, n.d.).

EMULATION

As Adobe Flash was declared dead and slowly became no longer supported, “gaming historians and creators started to scramble for ways to preserve what had become almost two decades’ worth of gaming history” (Player One, 2021).

One way flash games have been preserved is converting them from Adobe flash to HTML5 (Player One, 2021). Platforms like AddictingGames have been working on converting flash games to HTML5, saving close to 900 (Player One, 2021), and CoolMathsGames are also in the process of these conversions.

Online flash emulation has also been achieved, as the Internet Archive has created a gaming library using the Multiplatform emulator Ruffle to preserve flash games (Player One, 2021).

Finally, there has also been a development in downloadable archives, as a project called Flashpoint has preserved over 38,000 flash games using an containerised Flash implementation (D’Anastasio, 2020).

The amount of effort that gaming historians and flash game enthusiasts have put into preserving this era of video game history is a testament to their popularity and our collective nostalgia for this genre of gaming.

Digital Artefact Summary

[Click for source]

Feedback Response and Trajectory

Pitch peer feedback suggested to encourage user engagement through questions in captions and relatable content which I incorporated throughout my artefact. 

Beta peer feedback acknowledged the difficulty of gaining engagement on TikTok, suggesting continue my content schedule of 1-2 TikToks per day to encourage engagement which I continued to do in the final weeks of the project.

Project Appraisal Through Successes and Limitations

SUCCESSES

  • Audience were engaged with content through likes and occasional comments
  • Educating myself and audience on the various elements of flash, flash games, and nostalgia
  • Developed both entertaining and educational content consistently

LIMITATIONS

  • Little meaningful interaction in regards to comments
  • Difficulty developing a following on TikTok
  • More time consuming to make educational content relating to analytical framework than entertaining content

Concluding Remarks

Overall I enjoyed creating content for this Digital Artefact and learning more about Adobe flash and flash games through my framework. Jason Scott, Archivist at the Internet Archive stated “that was an extremely important era, Flash as a part of art, culture, gaming, and expression” (Jason Scott, cited in Koebler, 2015), and I couldn’t agree more.

REFERENCES

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