Musing: The Danger of Retro Goggles

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, both critiquing up and coming authors and putting my Paperwhite to good use.  Some things age better than others  and the term is often applied to media.   The reason is simple; it is a matter of critique.


The more I see this pose, the more I wince.

I tend to be forgiving about specific pieces of work, as they aren’t about to improve or worsen with time.  It isn’t the piece of work that changes after all.  It is how we perceive them.   We all do it.   Be it The Lord of the Rings, the Matrix or Sonic the Hedgehog.   No, I’m not comparing the three directly.   I don’t want to give you nightmares of Keanu reeves in a furry blue costume carrying a ring to Mount Doom.

Enter the Retro Goggles.   For whatever reason, when we see something (we like) for the first time.   We are typically star struck.  Something about it impresses us and it finds a place in our hearts and memories.   We inevitably move on from it and it sits on a pedestal.

When we come back to it some years later the thought often comes out.  “Wow, I remember this.   I loved this back in the day.”  Your mind goes right back to the moment when you were first impressed.  Here’s the tricky part, reaching up to your face—and pulling the glasses off.

shall not pass

I can’t unsee the Keanu Reeves thing.   Thanks, D.

You end up with mixed results.  Sometimes you find the thing you loved with a new sense of appreciation.   This happened to me when I flipped through the Fellowship of the Ring again, twenty years older.  Tolkien has a staggering amount of depth in his work that I simply couldn’t appreciate when I was a teen.   I just got so immersed I might as well have been in Middle Earth.   I liken the book to quizzing an old man who spent his life cataloging the events of the world, trying and failing to stump him.

On the flip side, I also found that the Lord of the Rings is not my kind of book now.   The focus doesn’t stay on the characters, something I value now as a writer.   Is it a bad book?   No.   But once the Retro Goggles came off, I had a new appreciation for it.

In a similar vein, I find removing the goggles can ruin things for me too.   I recently began reading a book by an author I’ve invested in eleven of his books.  This one, I struggled to get going on.  He hadn’t gotten worse, but my perspective changed.   In that light putting the Retro Glasses back on helped me enjoy it more.

Bullet time

Making you cry uncle in a New York Minute.

I mentioned the Matrix because when it came out it blew people’s minds.   It invented bullet time for cripes sake.  But it is very hard to watch the Matrix now, especially if you peel off those Retro Goggles.

I argue endlessly with my lady friend about Sonic the Hedgehog.   I never really liked him in the first place, a volatile combination of being a Nintendo fan boy and my distaste for ‘memorization game-play’.  When it came down to it, Sonic was hold right and hit a jump button occasionally in my eye, until Sonic Adventure came along anyway.

I actually defend that game on being good, but there’s no defending its horrific camera controls.  It made up for it with delightfully cheesy 80’s rock tracks.  No Retro Goggles can save the fate of Shadow the Hedgehog (the game not the character), where Sega officially ran out of f***s to give.


Handle with care.

That said, it is important to know when to put that asterisk next to lofty claims of praise.   Most of my applications of Retro Goggles place a stamp: For it’s time, _____ was amazing.   And every so often when I pull off those goggles, I find something even better.

2 thoughts on “Musing: The Danger of Retro Goggles

  1. Huh. I’ve never really put much thought into that Sonic Adventure post, but now? It looks kind of dirty. Ewwww.

    It really is interesting how much Sonic has changed over the years, though. Setting the games aside, of course, because that’s a problem best left aside for now (or for a long time, arguably). I mean, just looking at his art for Smash Bros. Brawl compared to Smash Bros. 4 shows some evolution of the character, or at least the intent behind it. Brawl art: he’s got the attitude, baby! Smash 4 art: gotta go fast! Plus he looks softer, and more energetic — more cartoon-like, arguably, but between you and me I think it’s a better look.

    Now let’s see how he looks 5 years from now. If he hasn’t retired yet, he’s probably not going to anytime oon.

    Back on topic, though: for me, the Retro Goggles seriously got me with the Kingdom Hearts series. I used to think that KH2 was (despite its “minor” faults) better than KH1, to the point where I thought I could never play the first game again because it aged so poorly — and was just weaker overall. Imagine my surprise when I play KH1, finish it, and to this day I’m considering putting it in my personal top ten. And imagine my super-surprise when I play through KH2 and realize it’s REALLY…uh…something? Not BAD, I guess, but it’s…uh…

    *mumbles incoherently and tries to slip out the window*

    • I remember my time with Kingdom Hearts 2 clearly, and if not for my unhealthy obsession with Gummi ships, I probably would have stopped playing it. Where KH1 netted me like Final Fantasy X netted me with the arena fights.

      “Oh. You think you’re awesome, huh? You think you can just ‘Quick Attack’ your way to victory? Ultima Counter on Physical attacks.” I love a game (or a any piece of media) that forces me out of my comfort zone but makes me feel like I want to be there anyway. This is just one of the things that makes the removal of Retro Goggles great, you have greater appreciation for the intentional wrongs something does to you… and gets away with it.

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