Once upon a game: Exploring video game nostalgia and its impact on well-being.

Tim Wulf, Nicholas D. Bowman, John A. Velez, Johannes Breuer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Retro gaming and the renaissance of past video games has been an emerging area of interest for media research within the past years. Yet, there is little empirical research trying to explain the psychological effects and benefits of past-related gaming. This article explores how remembering of past video game experiences relates to nostalgia, a mixed emotion elicited via reflection on the past that shows positive associations to well-being. To this end, a mixed-methods approach was used to investigate prerequisites of nostalgic video game experiences, their nature, and connections to well-being. In a randomized online survey, participants were instructed to elaborate on past (vs. recent) and social (vs. solo) gaming memories. Quantitative analyses indicated that nostalgia was impacted (a) directly by past memories and intrinsic need satisfaction of competence and relatedness within the remembrance, and (b) indirectly by social memories that increased relatedness. Controlling for the associations between need satisfaction and well-being, nostalgia showed significant associations with present feelings of connectedness. Additional qualitative analyses indicated that past memories were more strongly associated with enjoyment and challenge, and social memories were likely to involve close others. These findings are discussed regarding the elicitation of video game nostalgia as well as the application of nostalgic gaming for well-being purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-95
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology of Popular Media
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • nostalgia
  • optimism
  • social connectedness
  • subjective vitality
  • video games

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Communication
  • Cultural Studies
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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