Going home again?

Fan nostalgia in anticipation of World of Warcraft Classic

  • Claus Toft-Nielsen
Keywords: fandom, gaming, World of Warcraft, nostalgia


Since its release in 2004, World of Warcraft (WoW) has regularly changed the game and the play experience in significant ways. Recently, Blizzard, the developer of WoW, announced the upcoming game WoW Classic: “an authentic, Blizzard-quality classic experience”. Drawing on interviews with adult WoW fans and gamers, the article examines the game as an ‘affective space’ (Hills, 2002) of fandom that cannot be separated from the fan narratives and experiences it mediates. A key component in this affective space is the notion of fan nostalgia. The nostalgic relationship between a fan and a favourite text is often imbued with an imagined history, conjoining aff ect and meaning, belief and knowledge, and making nostalgia “both a way of knowing worlds – and a discourse of knowledge” (Radstone, 2010, p. 188). The article traces diff erent and often contradictory modes of fan nostalgia connected to WoW, such as tactile feelings of technostalgia (Bolin, 2015), deeply personal and anchoring types of nostalgia in the form of totemic objects (Proctor, 2017), manifested through fan practices of collecting digital items and souvenirs (Geraghty, 2014), and interwoven with desirable and appropriate self-identity and self-narrative (Williams, 2014). In reading these modes of nostalgia, the article argues that they ultimately function as a sort of ‘homecoming’, as the gamers’ many different experiences of the game and media texts surrounding the game all come together as complex attempts of memory work, creating the possibility of establishing a home within their fandom.


Banish, D. (2013). Virtual life and the value of objects: Nostalgia, distinction, and collecting in the twentyfirst century. In K.M. Moist and D. Banish (Eds.) Contemporary Collecting. Objects, Practices, and the Fate of Things (pp. 55-66). Toronto: The Scarecrow Press.

Bartholeyns, G. (2014). The instant past: Nostalgia and digital retro photography. In K. Niemeyer (Ed.) Media and Nostalgia. Yearning for the Past, Present and Future (pp. 51-69). Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan (Memory Studies). https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137375889_4

Blizzard forums (2017.07.22). You think you do, but you don’t. Retrieved from: https://us.battle.net/forums/en/wow/topic/20758385719

Bolin, G. (2015). Passion and nostalgia in generational media experiences. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 19(3), pp. 250-264. ttps://doi.org/10.1177/1367549415609327

Booth, P. (2015). Playing Fans. Negotiating Fandom and Media in the Digital Age. Iowa: University of Iowa Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt20p58ks

Booth, P. (2017). Digital Fandom 2.0. New York: Peter Lang.

Boym, S. (2001). The Future of Nostalgia. New York, Basic Books.

Brooker, W. (2007). Everywhere and nowhere: Vancouver, fan pilgrimage and the urban imaginary, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 10(4), pp. 423-444. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877907083078

Chase, M., & Shaw, C. (1989). The dimensions of nostalgia. In M. Chase and C. Shaw (Eds.). The Imagined Past: History and Nostalgia (pp. 1-17). Manchester, England: Manchester University Press.

Cross, G. (2016). Consumed Nostalgia. Memory in the Age of Fast Capitalism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Dames, N. (2010). Nostalgia and its disciplines: A response. Memory Studies, 3(3), pp. 269-275.

Davis, F. (1977). Nostalgia, identity and the current nostalgia wave. Journal of Popular Culture, 11. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0022-3840.1977.00414.x

De Kosnik, A. (2016). Rogue Archives: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom. Cambridge: MIT Press. https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/10248.001.0001

DKPminus (2016). An estimated 1.3 million people playing in WoW private servers. Retrieved from: https://www.dkpminus.com/blog/estimated-1-3-million-people-playing-wow-private-servers/

Fenty, S. (2008). Why old school is ‘‘cool’’: A brief analysis of classic video game nostalgia.

Taylor, L.N. and Whalen, Z. (Eds.), Playing the Past: History and Nostalgia in Video Games (pp. 19-31). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Geraghty, L. (2018). Nostalgia, fandom and the remediation of children’s culture. In P. Booth (Ed.) A Companion the Media Fandom and Fan Studies (161-174), Oxford: Wiley Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119237211.ch10

Geraghty, L. (2014). Cult Collectors. Nostalgia, Fandom and Collecting Popular Culture. London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpcu.12287

Grainge, P. (2002). Monochrome Memories: Nostalgia and Style in Retro America. Westport, CT: Praeger. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0021875804318682

Gray, J. (2010). Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts. New York: NYU Press. https://doi.org/10.1177/1329878x1013600123

Grossberg, L. (1992). Is there a fan in the house? The affective sensibility of fandom. In L.A. Lewis (Ed.): The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media (pp. 50-65), London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203181539

Heineman, D. (2014). Public Memory and Gamer Identity: Retrogaming as Nostalgia. Journal of Game Criticism, 1(1). Retrieved from: http://gamescriticism.org/articles/heineman-1-1/

Hills. M. (2002). Fan Cultures. London: Routledge.

Hills, M. (2010). Attending horror film festivals and conventions: Liveness, subcultural capital, and ‘flesh and-blood’ genre communities. In I. Cornrich (Ed.) Horror Zone: The Cultural Experience of Contemporary Horror Cinema (pp. 67-73), London: IB Tauris. https://doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748689736.003.0002

Hills, M. (2012). Psychoanalysis and digital fandom: Theorizing spoilers and fans’ self-narratives. In R.A. Lind (Ed.) Producing Theory in a Digital World: Th e Intersection of Audiences and Production in Contemporary Theory (pp. 105-122). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Hills, M. and Garde-Hansen, J. (2017). Fandom’s paratextual memory: Remembering, reconstructing, and repatriating “lost” Doctor Who. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 34(2), pp. 158-167. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2017.1293276

Hörtnagl, J. (2016). ’Why? Because it’s classic!’ Negotiating knowledge and group identity in the retrogaming-community ‘Project 1999’. Medien & Zeit, 31(4), pp. 40-49.

Ito, M. (1999). Network localities: identity, place, and digital media. Paper presented at Society for the Social Studies of Science (http://www.itofi sher.com/PEOPLE/mito/papers/locality.pdf), San Diego, October, 1999.

Jancovich, M. (2002). Cult fictions: Cult movies, subcultural capital and the production of cultural distinctions, Cultural Studies, 16(2), pp. 306-322. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380110107607

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture. New York: New York University Press.

Jenkins, H. (2007). The Wow Climax: Tracing the Emotional Impact of Popular Culture. New York: New York University Press. https://doi.org/10.1177/14407833080440030605

Johnson, D. (2007). Fan-tagonisms: Factions, institutions and constitutive hegemonies of fandom. In J. Gray, C. Sandvoss, C.L. Harrington (Eds.), Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World (pp. 285- 300). New York, NY: New York University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1pwtbq2.25

Lowenthal, D. (1985). Th e Past is a Foreign Country. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Lamerichs, S. (2011). Stranger than fiction: Fan identity in cosplay, in Transformative Works and Cultures, vol. 7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2011.0246

Loveridge, S. (2018). Spyro Reignited Trilogy is absolutely ‘90s nostalgia and I’m loving every minute, GamesRadar. Retrieved from: https://www.gamesradar.com/spyro-reignited-preview-e3-2018/

Mary-Justice, A. (2018.08.02). Beyond the nostalgia, Vanilla WoW’s return may combat our social media crisis, in: Inven Global. Retrieved from: (https://www.invenglobal.com/articles/5831/beyond-the-nostalgia-vanilla-wows-return-may-combat-our-social-media-crisis).

Medium (2016.07.02). How to play Legacy World of Warcraft & relive your nostalgia (https://medium.com/@DKPminus/how-to-play-legacy-world-of-warcraft-relive-your-nostalgia-97d37897242).

Newman, H. (2018.09.26). ’World of Warcraft Classic’ playable at BlizzCon; J. Allen Brack Talks Challenges, Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/hnewman/2018/09/26/world-of-warcraft-classicplayable-at-blizzcon-j-allen-brack-talks-challenges/#65c629212f42.

Niemeyer, K. (2014). Introduction: Media and nostalgia. In K. Niemeyer (Ed.) Media and Nostalgia. Yearning for the Past, Present and Future (pp. 1-23). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137375889_1

Pickering, M. and Keightley, E. (2006). The modalities of nostalgia. Current Sociology 54(6), pp. 919-941. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011392106068458

Pinch, T.J. & Reinecke, D. (2009). Technostalgia. How old gear lives on in new music. Bijsterveld, K. & van Dijck, J. (Eds.), Sound Souvenirs. Audio Technologies, Memory and Cultural Practices. (pp. 152-166) Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. https://doi.org/10.5117/9789089641328

Proctor, W. (2017). “Bitches ain’t gonna hunt no ghosts”: Totemic nostalgia, toxic fandom and the Ghostbusters platonic. Palabra Clave 20(4), pp. 1105-1141. https://doi.org/10.5294/pacla.2017.20.4.10

Radstone, S. (2010). Nostalgia: Home-comings and departures, Memory Studies, 3, 187-191. https://doi.org/10.1177/1750698010364808

Sandvoss, C. (2005). Fans: Th e Mirror of Consumption. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Sloan, R.J.S. (2015). Videogames as remediated memories: Commodifi ed nostalgia and hyperreality in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Gone Home, Games and Culture 12(6), pp. 525-550. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412014565641

Stewart, S. (1993). On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822378563

Tuan, Y.F. (1997). Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. London: Edward Arnold.

Vess, M., Arndt, J., Routledge, C., Sedikides, C., & Wildschut, T. (2012). Nostalgia as a resource for the self. Self and Identity, 11, pp. 273-284. https://doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2010.521452

Waysdorf, A. & Reijnders, S. (2019). Fan homecoming: Analysing the role of place in long-term fandom of The Prisoner. Popular Communication 17(1), pp. 50-65. https://doi.org/10.1080/15405702.2018.1524146

Whiteman, N. (2008). Homesick for Silent Hill: Modalities of nostalgia in fan responses to Silent Hill 4: The room. Taylor, L.N. and Whalen, Z. (Eds.) Playing the Past: History and Nostalgia in Video Games (pp. 32-50). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Williams, R. (2014). Postobject Fandom: Television, Identity and Selfnarrative. London: Bloomsbury.

Williams, R. (2016). Onthological security, authorship, and resurrection: Exploring Twin Peaks’ social media afterlife, Cinema Journal, 55(3), pp. 143-147. https://doi.org/10.1353/cj.2016.0029

Wilson, J.L. (2014). Nostalgia. Sanctuary of Meaning. Lewisburg, PA: University of Minnesota Libraries.

Wowhead (2015.08.04). Q2 2015 results: WoW down to 5.6 million subscribers. Wowhead. Retrieved from http://www.wowhead.com/news=248571/q2-2015-results-wow-down-to-5-6-million-subscribers

How to Cite
Toft-Nielsen, C. (2019). Going home again?. MedieKultur: Journal of Media and Communication Research, 35(66), 003-017. https://doi.org/10.7146/mediekultur.v35i66.106494
Articles: Open section