I kinda hate nostalgia.
Outside of a few odd examples here and there, I’m pretty detached from most of the media I consumed as a kid. While I’d like to think it’s because I simply matured over time, it’s more to do with how overexposed the things I once treasured had become. We feel like a generation steeped in repetition. We talk about how adaptions of beloved properties “kill our childhood” because it’s different from what we grew up with, as if the expectation is to have that childhood regurgitated to us over and over without deviation. We associate with the decades we were born in and the media that defined those times, as if they also defined us. Nostalgia, to me, feels like an enemy of progress. As long as we continue to crave that comfort food, that familiar name or character, we’re that much less likely to pursue new works, even if they were created under the influences of those old familiar things. Even if they may actually be better than those old familiar things.
So something like Terrordrome leaves me conflicted.
As a love letter to 80s and 90s horror, it’s a delight. As a game, especially one created independently as a hobby, it’s an achievement, even if you ignore that nostalgia that frames it. But that’s the draw, after all. Had these intrepid designers filled the game with nothing but original characters, chances are that it still would have been a good experience, but not that familiar experience that comes with playing as a movie slasher. When you fight Jason, he moves and sounds and feels the way you expect him to, or should I say, the way you remember him. It’s this attention to detail that seems to muddle my bias here.
Where is the line between tribute and exploitation? Considering the non-profit nature of Terrordrome, I sit firmly in the realm of the former. Had it been published by, say, Warner Brothers, I’d probably have a different outlook. When Alien and Leatherface are added to the Mortal Kombat roster just in time for new hits at the box office, it feels like that urge for the familiar is being used against us, but here it feels like the natural progression of romhacks and homebrews; a celebration of an often vastly misunderstood culture and fanbase to be shared with others in that niche. It’s genuine, a 9 year labor of love, even if that thing we love isn’t as great as we remember it being.
Liking those things was never the crime. It’s the fear that looking back often prevents us from looking forward; the sad assumption I have that Batman’s origin story will be retold a half dozen more times before I’m in the grave, consumed primarily by the same people that were around for the previous retelling, never wanting for something new or different. Terrordrome seems to live in that middle ground, where inspiration for creating something spawned a new way to embrace the old, but in a way that feels final. As luck would have it, Terrordrome 2 is in the works to be something wholly original, spawned, no doubt, from the love of those ubiquitous characters and the worlds they exist in.
Playing it in 2016, as a snapshot of something that can’t truly be replicated again, in a world where Freddy Krueger is no longer scary, it somehow fits.