"The Fantasy that Never Takes Place": Nostalgic Travel in Videogames


  • Christopher James Goetz The University of Iowa


This article explores the correspondence between a pensive mode of play and a nostalgic address in 1990s and early 2000s videogames. Conceiving of the wish to dwell within the game as a longing for radical alterity serves as a theoretical extension of rhythmanalysis for thinking about the porous boundaries of the game text. The article seeks to expand the established discursive and conceptual function accorded to stillness as a form of play. It discusses three ‘nostalgic gestures’ that stall the game’s action: the glance from foreground to background; the shift from the game to paratextual materials; and the drift of attention out the window or away from the gaming context altogether. Gaming’s promise of exotic transport activates a “fervor of the possible,” a melancholic identification with the world beyond which invests game spaces with the capacity for hopeful discovery, verging on a wish to remove oneself from the flow of time altogether.

Author Biography

Christopher James Goetz, The University of Iowa

Assistant Professor of Cinematic Arts