“You still play Minecraft?”
The 5 year old boy from our church forgets that Minecraft wasn’t around when I was his age. His confusion mirrors that of my students. They find it hard to believe their teacher enjoys anime/manga/videogames/D&D/tumblr/etc.
I’m a church-going Christian and we often talk about a shared culture in Christ breaking down other cultural barriers. In the same way, the internet has offered ways for people unrelated by ethnicity or age to participate in communities of fandoms or engage with media without it being segmented through television channels or publications which would otherwise define the type of media they would be exposed to. If something’s good, people will know about it. The Brony community found freedom and joy in a program previously enjoyed almost exclusively by pre-teen girls. The writing and animation offered plenty for all ages to appreciate, but without forums, message boards and YouTube we’d never have known the wonder of hanging with our filly friends. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic would be just another “girls’ show” without the traction it currently enjoys. Of course we can look at everything the internet offers and observe how it has facilitated the propagation of various forms of entertainment, but what I’d like to focus on is the generation gap.
We’re in a time where news breaks across social media – many reports from many sources wash over us, with almost as many perspectives. But what we lose is the funnel that determines where it comes from. Our grandparents read one (of perhaps two) newspapers and watched maybe a couple of television networks. Even with the analogous websites aimed at particular audiences, the majority of our information comes from a great info dump, sans the executive calling the shots on what gets heard or seen. YouTube shows popular videos, regardless of who they were popular with. News sites are forced to run with stories that gain popularity on social media, rather than being selective about what constitutes “news”. If sources of current world events want to remain relevant, they can’t let their biases through. Despite the best efforts of mainstream news networks, it’s getting harder to ignore the sector of the entertainment industry that is currently worth the most: Videogames.
And who says what’s good? Everyone. I’m adding to the deluge of information, piping out reviews and opinion pieces and sharing them on social media, and who is dictating the audience? No one. When a TV show or a game is good, we will hear about it. Children won’t just hear about the games they play from the “4KIDZ NETWERK” and older internet users aren’t forced into choosing between the broadsheet and the tabloid.
I ADORE Adventure Time. It works in fantasy and fairy tale tropes combined with the vernacular of the modern internet. We named our daughter in honour of the show. I have come to know hundreds of people from all walks of life, merely because they enjoy Adventure Time. I even keep in regular contact with several of the writers and artists that produce the associated comic series. Genuine access for the layman to amazing creative minds is another wonderful aspect to Web 2.0. The appeal of Adventure Time speaks to everyone who uses the internet as a social avenue. It speaks our language. It deals with topics like broken families and videogame addiction. It’s a show for our time, but not just for children or teenagers, but anyone who is part of the broad concept of “internet culture”.
My wife is a GP (general practitioner/family doctor/local physician for those who know them by a different name) and has found a knowledge of gaming (from Ingress to Portal), anime, comics and other elements of popular culture to be a wonderful tool when building rapport with older and younger patients alike. She recently recounted a mother’s confused look as her daughter and the doctor discussed Black Butler and Attack on Titan. She stopped short of giving the school-age daughter my email address as she paused to consider the connotations, but instead relayed questions the girl had so that I could help with where to get manga at the cheapest price. We have friends in their late 50’s that watch Adventure Time. Any time a video goes viral, we all know about it. Even my parents, who have insisted on weekly exorcisms since they had internet access installed in their home have been exposed to and are familiar with some of the most common elements of internet culture.
Avenues like tumblr and deviantART allow budding artists and fans to share their creations and explore what’s hitting the mark in the court of public opinion. There’s no age barrier. There’s no geographical limitation. I will continue to discuss Hellboy and the BPRD with my South African friend who knits themed toys for her children. I will continue to chat with web comic creators from all walks of life. My tumblr/Instagram/twitter feed is full of people who care about the social issues and comic books that I’m interested in. And through each individual, my knowledge base and areas of interest expand.
My students loved finishing off a double session of mathematics with an episode of Adventure Time. Or jamming out on Rock Band for our last class of the semester. I chat with engineers and receptionists and psychologists who all watch anime. We all see similar social trends and breakthroughs. I see a future that isn’t too far away where we ride the tide of change and our lives and laws aren’t governed by comfortable, rich, white folk, but instead by those who best speak our common cultural language, thanks to our interconnectedness. We just need enough of those rich, white folk to die out. So hold off on those miracle age-reversing pills until they’re gone.
I love hearing about parents and children gaming together. I can’t wait to laugh along with my daughter at whichever shows stand out each season. I hope she might take a little joy in our extensive library of graphic novels. It’ll be wonderful to squee along with her as our favourite characters go about their adorable lives. Modern parents have so many more tools to help them share in the interests of their children, and vice versa. And it’s thanks to the internet that we don’t have to stagnate. Old and young alike can enjoy each new wave of entertainment possibilities.