Technological Obsolescence as A Source of Pleasure in Video Games

Quadrilateral Cowboy is a cyberpunk game that delightfully blends 80’s technology with a futuristic edge. The game mainly consists of players using their hacking skills to pull off heists. As the player progresses through Quadrilateral Cowboy, new abilities are unlocked that allow more creative solutions to the hacking challenges found in the game. For instance, players can use a remote-controlled robot to access locations too small for the human character to enter, or a swiveling rifle that can be controlled remotely.


Hacking is usually done using a command-line prompt, which fits nicely into the 80s aesthetic of the game. Image courtesy of IGN.

The use of 80s technology and late 90s-to-early-2000s graphics in the game evokes a sense of nostalgia in people who play Quadrilateral Cowboy. I for one was reminded of the low polygon count of games I played on my PlayStation One. This form of nostalgia is described by Alexis C. Madrigal as a “…“That’s my shit!”” kind of pleasure, in possessing this knowledge of obsolete lived experience.” He also notes the increasing prevalence of technological obsolescence, and the fact that “[e]verything’s speedin’ up!” Despite this increasing rate of technological obsolescence that results in a new iPhone each year, or the reduction of console life cycles characterized by the 13 year reign of the PlayStation 2, to the 10 year life cycle of the PlayStation 3, to the 3 years between the PS4 and the PS4 Pro, I take delight in the fact that I can revisit old technologies I experienced with that sense of nostalgic pleasure Madrigal describes.

One thought on “Technological Obsolescence as A Source of Pleasure in Video Games

  1. What do you think the game does for those who did not grow up in the 80’s? I imagine that it can’t be nostalgia (since there’s nothing about which to be particularly nostalgic), but at the same time, these retro-style games do evoke some sort of historical appreciation for the for the aesthetic of the time, which has a value of its own.


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