Nostalgia games are beautiful

December 2, 2019 — by Mathew Luo

My first memory of Flash games (those Adobe-Flash-Player-powered web games) isn’t even of a game I played. It’s of a friend of mine playing Maple Story on his 12-year-old Dell computer. The room was dark, the house party was noisy outside and the colors from the long-outdated TN screen — now outdated and muted-looking — were vibrant and beautiful. 

I spent a lot of time playing Flash games when I was younger. I should probably feel a little bit guilty for burning so much time playing online games during my childhood. But those memories are simply floaty, ethereal and wonderful, and they are treasures, not regrets.

The first games I remember playing were on I’m not even sure of the games’ names anymore: PBS Kids has been rebooted long since. I was about 3 at the time.

My memory is patchy — I can vaguely picture a Teletubbies game with a large sun and some adobe-looking huts with crossbars for windows in the background, as well some Arthur and Caillou games. 

The next batch of games I moved on to were the true Flash games of internet history. I had a grand time waking up early to play games on Kongregate, Y8, Stickpage and Armorgames and watching Unregistered Hypercam 2 tutorials on how to beat them.

The jewel of my game collection was Stick War — a 2D-Starcraft-like strategy game where you collect resources and build units to destroy the enemy base. Spamming archers was my personal degenerate strategy, and brutally crushing the AI has never lost its charm. I’ve replayed the campaign at least a hundred times over (on Insane mode if any hardcore gamers are reading). 

Another game I enjoyed at that time was Kingdom Rush, a 2D strategy game. Kingdom Rush took a peculiar twist on tower defense games — you can only build towers on designated spots on the map, and you can place troops to block incoming enemies. 

I had time to play Kingdom Rush right after my Saturday morning swim practice before my afternoon Chinese class. I was really bad at it. I ended up spamming Tesla artillery towers to beat the game on easy mode, a mark of shame for me at the time. Spamming and easy mode have been my go-tos for every game I’ve played since. 

I played Flash games exclusively until I was about 12. The last hurrah for Flash games was in my sixth grade, where Happy Wheels and Realm of the Mad God and Bloons TD5 were the new coolest things. My friends and I were having a wonderful time placing down monkeys to shoot balloons and farming potions and driving a fat man on a tractor … and then everybody started playing Minecraft. The party was over and the cover closed on Flash games in my life. 

Adobe announced that it would discontinue support for Adobe Flash Player at the end of 2020, but for all intents and purposes, the chapter of Flash games in internet history has already long gone. Those games really were wonderful in their heyday, and I feel both a little sorrow and a little happiness reminiscing about them.

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