Jakob Hörtnagl: “Why? Because It’s Classic!“ Negotiated knowledge and group identity in the retrogaming-community “Project 1999”

This paper explores the preservation of the social architecture as a constitutive element of the retrogaming-community Project 1999, a group of players who are enthusiastic about a specific classic phase of the old MMORPG Everquest. In an attempt to recreate an authentic gaming experience, certain technical and cultural characteristics of this era are invoked as a symbolic resource in a retrospective discourse. The players negotiate nostalgic sentiments in the contradictory conditions of the contemporary converging media environment to recreate what they consider the “essence” of Everquest. The paper follows this issue by investigating the ways in which knowledge is collected and applied. Using a dedicated wiki, information about the original game is collected and made visible within the community in a collaborative effort. This provides opportunities to reflect and discuss shared memories and recreate authenticity not only on the technical, but also on the cultural level. The stated ideal, although impossible to achieve, serves as an important point of reference in ongoing negotiations on the condition of the game. A collective memory grounded in nostalgic longing directed at the past thus becomes a source for shared identity and communitization in the present.