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Demaking: Manipulating Nostalgia Martin van de Weyer

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Demaking: Manipulating Nostalgia Martin van de Weyer. Demaking The practice wherein creative game fans take recent game titles and produce creations which reimagine them as part of a previous generation, existing on older, less sophisticated hardware

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Martin van de Weyer


The practice wherein creative game fans take recent game titles and produce creations which reimagine them as part of a previous generation, existing on older, less sophisticated hardware

Through analysing a range of examples it is possible to see how nostalgia is a manipulable sentiment, but also one which illustrates player current desires and longings

Firstly, it is useful to look at the wider scope of videogame nostalgia to see where demaking fits

Several iterations

Large difference

in quality

Short time




Extreme rate of change

Experience of

time compressed

Nostalgia occurs

more rapidly



Demaking takes this increased acceleration to its logical conclusion, such that the factor of time is reduced to zero

Instead, time is only suggested through the stylistic and aesthetic elements that are used to reimagine them

Thus a sense of instant nostalgia can be created for currently existing titles



Ephemeral Digital


Tangible Memory


As discussed by Campbell in relation to the concept of the ‘craft consumer’, the act of crafting allows an individual to assimilate an object into their own world of meaning (Campbell, 2005)

Through this act of creation, a person can take ownership of these mass produced experiences, inflecting them with their own personal significance so that they can become more specifically meaningful memory anchors

While demade creations could similarly be perceived as memory anchors, their true purpose comes out when they are shared between numerous individuals rather than being in the possession of one

These artefacts enable a communication of ideas directly between individuals but also provide a means for sharing particular forms of longing

Before looking at this in more detail it is useful to outline the three main types of demade works

Each format can be seen possess a distinctive characteristic that grants it with a particular nostalgic weight


Playable Creations

Playable games created which mimic a previous time both visually and in gameplay

Their nostalgic potency lies in the fact that they do not only suggest a visual style, but also gameplay mechanics, sound, animation-all the stimulus of a game experience

Recreates directly the feeling of playing a game from that age, through the act of gameplay


Screenshot Mock-Ups

An image which seemingly captures a frozen moment of a particular game

All the standard elements (characters, backgrounds, HUD) are rendered in place

Can be used to make entirely fictitious games without basis any previously existing titles

Possible to see it as fitting into the wider scope of sprite/pixel art

The nostalgic weight of such images lies in their closeness to being real, owing to the player’s learned fluency at interpreting screenshots

Screenshots are often used to communicate the art style and the range of interactions which are possible within a game

When looking these static images, players eagerly imagine the entire world of the game, readily assuming a background of mechanics and interactions that, in demade creations, do not exist

Such an interaction recreates the childhood experience of extrapolating what possible adventures lie in store from viewing the screenshots pictured on the box for the game or in a magazine

Nintendo Power Magazine, Issue 77, pg. 14

Box Art and Para-Textual Mock-Ups

Images or artefacts which reflect the visual style of the print media created for earlier games

Such creations commonly mimic a selection of standard formats and templates common to past products


Their key nostalgic quality lies in their tactile and possible real world presence

Through signs of external wear they are able to suggest a natural cycle of use

As a Form of Cultural Capital/Gaming Capital

Jenkins drew from Bourdieu in his discussion of the place that game knowledge holds in youth suggesting that ‘Games form the basis of playground discussions, and detailed background knowledge of the various universes constitutes an important source of cultural capital’ (Jenkins, 1993)

Mia Consalvo reworks Bourdieu, suggesting the phrase ‘gaming capital’, a concept which she believes is ‘a key way to understand how individuals interact with games, information about games and the game industry, and other game players’(Consalvo, 2007)


Such works allow the creator to illustrate their gaming capital

Through choosing specific references, and crafting artful connections between them, the creator is able to demonstrate their knowledge and command of the original texts


The manner in which different styles and references are tied together, and the contrast which often results, are commonly used to create a ‘joke’

Through ‘getting the joke’ the viewer is reassured of their own gaming capital

Additionally, such stylistic elements can also be used to hint at the game culture of a previous time

Those who are able to make the connection become engaged in a nostalgic recollection

Therefore, interaction with a demade image does not just stabilise gaming capital, but also stimulates a nostalgic reaction

Demaking can also be seen as a medium which illustrates players’ current desires

The nostalgic creators of demade artefacts and images, through the games they chose to reimagine and the stylistic characteristics they select to highlight particular elements, illustrate what qualities they perceived to be key to old games, and what they most long for, and appreciate, in new games

What games are chosen to be demade is telling, often being recent indie games or slightly removed cult classics

This focus can be seen to exist because there are key fans of these games, positioned to both create and consume these demade works, but also because these games tend to do things outside the current mainstream and thus are able to contain a selection of uncommon, valorised qualities

By looking at a range of demade examples it is possible to see which qualities are desirable in more modern times



3.Existing within a Golden Age

4.Need for Imagination/Filling in the Gaps

5.Centrality of Game Mechanics

6.Economy of Means



Early home console games were still built on the mechanics used in the arcade wherein the aim was to take the players coins

With time difficulty has become reduced, but nostalgia has softened its negative character and made it desirable

Through good design Super Meat Boy makes difficulty an enjoyable aspect rather than detracting from the experience, and thus is worthy of demade appreciation



Like difficulty, accessibility was a key factor of early game design, with players needing to be able to quickly develop an understanding in order to be able to play

With the growing complexity of controllers and creation of a wide range of videogame conventions, games have become less accessible to newcomers

Katamari Damacy is granted a demade reimagining as the game’s simple gameplay, utilising only two thumb sticks to direct a ball, connects to an earlier form of accessibility

Created by matt0 ,

3.As Part of a Golden Age

Fans of scrolling shooters recognise the 16-32 bit era as the key age of the genre, in which there were a large selection of innovations and masterpieces of the style

While the style of game continues to be created there are far fewer examples and thus the genre is seen as a dying breed. Hence Ikaruga, a recent and critically acclaimed shooter is reimagined as existing amongst its valued peers within the key 16-32 Bit era,


4.Need for Imagination/Filling in the Gaps

Early games, with their highly pixelated visuals were primarily representational; hence it was the responsibility of the player to use their imagination to define what was really happening

Current photorealistic games take away the need to use one’s imagination as the world is rendered in its entirety


This characteristic was utilised by producers to advertise games differently, depending on the varying desires of separate markets


Demade art for FEZ portrays the game as about a real human being in a t-shirt and jeans rather than the cartoon character that appears in the official art

Such imagery borrows from the idea that a pixelated image can suggest far more than what is visible


5.Centrality of the Game Mechanics

With limited visual detail games had to appeal through the engaging nature of the interaction rather than purely their presentation

With a demade version of Treasure’s title Ikaruga, despite a reduction in graphical complexity the game mechanics still work, and remain entertaining

6.Economy of Means

Early games with their minimal storage space, processing power and visual capabilities presented creators with a narrow set of constraints to work within

Such boundaries are seen as forcing designers to be more creative, rather than current games which are perceived to be limited only by budget

The valorisation of this quality can be seen through the examples which further minimise already minimal games,

Feeding Back Into Games

Super Meat Boy demake’s itself, providing levels within the game that mimic previous console platforms

Through careful manipulation of nostalgia Super Meat Boy presents a game which aligns with player’s nostalgic desires but in a form that utilises a more current understanding of game design

In conclusion, demaking can be seen as a practice which deals with cultural or gaming capital but also, through the methods chosen and the games selected it also illustrates the qualities that players nostalgically desire

Ultimately the mixing of elements and qualities results in a situation where the new is old and the old is new

Thankyou for your attention.

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