Fascination with the (new) old (classics)

Somebody once asked me how I find all the (somewhat) old and obscure stuff I sometimes write on the blog and talk in person. Like with Gekisatsu! Uchuuken, to mention a specific example this question was propped up against. My answer is rarely anything poetic and really ended up being This is the kind of stuff I’m interested in, and often simply look into what’s there. By this I mean I have a tendency, or a very bad habit, to look up mentions of sources of inspirations, quoted series names, game titles listed on old magazines or sites, or simply because looking for something else I ran into something that seems interesting and begin to look up what’s it all about. The last bit is, unfortunately, far too common and nine out of ten times leads me to research something old, something that doesn’t seem to have decent resources on the ‘web, and all I can really do is purchase the damn thing only to realise it’s a part of larger piece and things begin to spiral out from there. This is why I’m going to have to talk about Monster Maker in few months.

I still need to return to talk about Gekisatsu! Uchuuken now that I have vastly more info on it, like about its original proto-iteration that was written during high-school days, the LP with the intended music for the never-realised TV series and managed to obtain the comics twice over with some more juicy extra info

Just as often as I saw people getting into something they just found out and were passionate about I could see someone scoffing them off either because it wasn’t interesting to others, or they had been interested in the same subject before and had either moved on or disregarded the subject. Then you have combination of both, and raising their noses to the plebeian who just now found something that they probably thought should be common base knowledge for everyone. That’d be like if I’d assume you dear reader could tell me what happens in episodes of Cream Lemon just because it was a massive influence on Japanese popular culture still felt to this day, and you most likely have some level of fascination regarding Japanese games and cartoons if you’re reading this blog.

People find different things at different rate, or sometimes never. Our fields of interests are wide and individually very specific. There is no one person who shares all the same interests with someone else, which also leads us to build our views and opinions very differently. It’s both nature and nurture. We might have a disposition for certain kind of interests, be it about what kind of job we want or what we find interesting in entertainment. We aren’t as tabula rasa even after birth as some might suggest, but neither are we slave to our genes. This is stupidly convoluted way of saying we got different interest and we want different things from life. This doesn’t lead into conveniently split demographics though.

Nevertheless, the old fascinates us. Be it to understand history itself, or where certain elements have spun from in culture and media. For example, how video games didn’t simply wink into existence when the first video and/or computer game was devised, but rather how modern electronic gaming was a slow process that included inventing new tools to build new methods of play old games and ideas with. While the distinction between video games and tabletop games is handy, the only true separation between the two is the medium. In the most basic form, both are about the play. Which also explains why some prefer the electronic method of playing, while other prefer the more traditional method via physical instruments. The two overlap constantly, seeing variations of the same core idea of play in both forms.

Even Tetris, a video game that is practically impossible to be converted into a board game without electronics or some form of change in play rules, has multiple board game iterations. This one’s from Ashen’s play review

 

Old becomes new when you find about it the first time around. There are no limitations on age on anything when it’s found for the first time. Children find classics all the time via new media just as we used to stumble upon new books and comics in the stores and libraries. There is no limitation or expiration on what constitutes as old when it’s found for the first time, and there is no set time someone “needs” to find something. It’s a treasure of a moment when you find something special to you, old or new, that you simply end up enjoying like no other. Doesn’t matter if it’s passé or something else as long as you end up enjoying it. Share the love while you’re at it, maybe you’ll be able to give the same moment about the same thing with someone else.

Although the old has a hold on the cultural mind, Old is not the best choice of word there. What has preceded before would be more proper, as many works are effectively timeless. Some of them haven’t aged all that well, some have been made obsolete and surpassed by another works in certain genres, styles or even series, while others still hold their candle to even the newest and shiniest of works you can grab. Star Wars and Star Trek could be cited as examples of this, but I’m sure you’re about as tired about that subject as I am. However, they are both good examples of franchises that simply don’t seem to die or be eclipsed by something. Modern Star Wars seems love to lean on nostalgia far too much and hasn’t exactly broken new ground in any manner since Lucas’ last movies (for all the Prequels were, they did push film technology and ways to film forward to the point modern film making around the world owes the man.) As for Star Trek, well, better cut this one short before the discussion about canon becomes relevant. Personally I’m grown tired of canon as that seems to govern all discussions about franchises and stories as of late, where everything needs to be part of some particular canon, while I’m all happy to take each individual story as it is without needing to consider too much the surrounding fiction. Didn’t save me from wanting to bash ST Discovery’s head in though.

Because we have these comparison points with the past works, we can build a better and more cohesive understanding on how both media and culture landscapes have formed themselves. Perhaps this is why some people are high and mighty assholes as they supposedly have more information and perspective over others, but it’s more likely they’re just assholes. It’s weird to consider, but many of modern entertainment staples have a long-running history and have worked their asses off to be there. This level of investment of course means they’re a safe bet, something that will produce money just by name alone. A new franchise has to battle directly against these established giants, which isn’t a fair battle, at least not in most cases. The Orville is an interesting beast in that it was more popular than Star Trek Discovery, its approach as a loving homage and some level of parody left it a bit behind the curve, and that it’s one of the few SF shows now that enjoyed at least some level of success. 2014’s Almost Human was terrific series, which never launched off and was cut short only for one season partially because lack of views, no established IP to support it and FOX having the tendency to kill off genre shows. The show might have done better if it had been realised during the 1990’s, but 2014 didn’t really serve it well.

All this is to say that all that old may give us perspective, but at the same time there is a hard tendency to get stuck with it. It’s something familiar, it’s something we’re accustomed to. Despite how much we might argue otherwise, people are very much accustomed to certain kind of things. We feel safe and comfortable how things are. Despite something new may get our attention and pull us in, more often than not it ends up being similar to what we already know about. Old habits die hard. At the same time, we might get so stuck into certain kind of gear and believe what was and how things are that we completely ignore reality. That’s partially because of our media and relationship bubbles we live in and partially because of our own nature of interest. That’s to put it overtly simply. It’s not rarity for people to get stuck to history and what we suppose we know that we’re ignoring what’s in front of us right now. While history tends to rhyme, we move forwards all the time and things change gradually but constantly. There’s no stopping this train.

The more reason for someone like me to read fantasy books and try playing board games rather than mar myself further into SF and play video games exclusively. It might still be old, but expanding to classics and seeing how its web of culture was woven helps to understand the works of now.

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