In an attempt to explain the popularity of Mad Men, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik postulates the “Golden Forty Year” rule for nostalgia. Essentially, that’s the amount of time it takes between the production of something wonderful — a fashion style, time period, book, scultpture — and its subsequent reproduction by someone hoping to capture that previous work’s essence for a new generation. He explains:
That takes us to the current day, and, at last, to the reasons behind the rule. What drives the cycle isn’t, in the first instance, the people watching and listening; it’s the producers who help create and nurture the preferred past and then push their work on the audience. Though pop culture is most often performed by the young, the directors and programmers and gatekeepers—the suits who control and create its conditions, who make the calls and choose the players—are, and always have been, largely forty-somethings, and the four-decade interval brings us to a period just before the forty-something was born. Forty years past is the potently fascinating time just as we arrived, when our parents were youthful and in love, the Edenic period preceding the fallen state recorded in our actual memories. Although the stars of “Meet Me in St. Louis” were young, and its audience old and young both, Vincente Minnelli, its director, was born in 1903, just a year before the World’s Fair he made into a paradise. Matthew Weiner, born in 1965, is the baby in his own series. (The key variable behind the Beatles’ fondness for the twenties was the man they were pleasing and teasing: their great producer and arranger, George Martin, born in 1926.)
We’re seeing some of this in games with remergence of vector graphics in the indie community and the rise of adventure games, a long-lost, but well loved genre, on Kickstarter. Everything old is new again, right?