Video games as time machines: Video game nostalgia and the success of retro gaming

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This article conceptually integrates research on the experience of nostalgia—defined as a predominantly positive, social, and past-oriented emotion—into the fold of video game research. We emphasize the role of nostalgia as an explanation for contemporary retro gaming trends, and suggest that nostalgia towards gaming events is a necessary area of research. To those ends, we broadly review existing literature on nostalgia before specifically focusing on media-induced nostalgia, and demonstrate how theoretical and empirical observations from this work can be applied to understand video game nostalgia. In particular, we argue that engaging in older gaming experiences indirectly (via memories) and even directly (via replaying or recreating experiences) elicits nostalgia, which in turn contributes to players’ self-optimization and enhanced well-being. Moreover, as gamers and the medium mature together, nostalgic experiences with the medium are likely to become increasingly prevalent. The broad aim of this article is to offer future directions for research on video game nostalgia and provide a research agenda for research in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-68
Number of pages9
JournalMedia and Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Entertainment
  • Nostalgia
  • Retro gaming
  • Video games
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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