I’ve been working with kids on and off ever since I turned ten. I’ve got experience with kids from three different decades with varying ages, from three or four years olds to teenagers. The work has ranged from your normal summer camps to daycare centre work, and to weekly hobby club. Between these three, and everything including and surrounding them, are sort of honest mirrors what are the current things that are in. It’s not too uncommon to see children to have more knowledge what seems to be more popular than their parents. Of course, there is the division between children’s, adolescents’ and adults’ matters, but if we know anything about fandoms at this point is that there is far more overlap between all of them than we want to admit.
One thing I discussed a lot with first grade boys was Minecraft. While I don’t personally care for the game, the children are more than well versed in it. They can cite what materials can build what tools, how certain structures are best to build and how to farm Creepers like no other. While I should not be amazed how much they know, just the amount of logical thinking they made among each other incredible. Comparisons between real world materials and Minecraft voxels, thou there was more than few inaccuracies between them. For example, they claimed that any stone is stronger and harder than steel, which I responded in taking a normal stone outside and scratching it’s surface with an utensil.
I asked about certain other games that are more or less popular with the older population, but the children claimed them to be boring, thou few claimed that Skyrim was one the best games ever made. Period. It’s a good question how a six years old children are given access to the game, but if the parents regard the content and the kids old enough to play it, then who am I to say anything to the matter? Interestingly, Super Mario Bros. was regarded either too immature for their age or to me, but after asking if a good game has an actual age target group, the kids say such a thing would be stupid. I agree with them; why not make a great game everybody could enjoy regardless of their age?
The girls had less interest in games overall, mostly knowing of them but not really giving a damn about them. While most of them did say they play occasionally, it was more than apparent that they had no interest in gaming overall. Mario Bros. was one of the series they knew best, but even then they really had other interests. All this just makes more apparent that forcing products directed at an audience that has no interest in said product at the expense of the current consumerbase is stupid and more or less futile.
All this shows that Minecraft has been an insanely big hit. It defies everything people think about games, it being all game and no story, encouraging creative and logical thinking without directly hand holding the player’s hand, educating or enforcing ideas.
And apparently Super Smash Bros. For Console X is not a good game because nobody can be killed.
Last year there was a huge amount of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles discussion, and we had funny discussions where we compared the Nickelodeon Turtles against all previous versions. Few of them were interested in how, for example, Shredder was completely different in his 2003 iteration, being an Utrom and all. Actually, explaining what makes an Utrom, Krang and the Kraang stand from each other, but gladly the kids always want to me to draw something for them, so illustrative explanations are easy to make. Similar thing applies to Transformers. G1 setting has seen so many different variations of it that it’s a no brainer for the children to see connections and differences between the different series. We actually had a lengthy discussion whether or not Optimus Prime’s cannon should be transforming from the hand or a separate entity, and similarly if Prime should have a sword or an axe. One of the boys defended the axe idea by saying that it would be cooler.
Speaking of drawing, both boys and girls really enjoy whenever I doodle with them. Fairies, ninjas, angels, robots… some things seem to never change. Every time they ask how I’m so good at drawing, and I just have to tell them to practice. Sometimes we just sit there for an hour or two, discussing how to hold pen, what sort of paper is good, what colours are best and so on. My quick render of Lien Yun from Gekisatsu! Uchuuken was met with enthusiasm. Pre-schoolers deemed it as a pretty angel of protection while the first graders saw her as a Chinese princess with an attitude.
However, the most important thing is that when they asked me to draw robots, I did doodle a Mazinger and a generic Obari robot. The kids liked Mazinger better, because the Obaribot was too much and didn’t make any sense. After discussing it further, it seems that at the core design Mazinger simply works, whereas Obaribot was met with confusion due to its stupid appearance. It’s hard to explain, but the visuals Obari usually employ just seem too busy, stupidly complex and overall unattractive to certain degree. Perhaps it was the generic outlook I used, or just that locally the kids don’t like that appearance. However, the latter doesn’t hold water when you take notice how modern Transformers does have Obari inspired elements and so on.
Girls on the other hand still like princesses, fairies and all the stuff that is typically seen stereotypical for girls. This is not a bad thing at all, as the same things repeat with girls’ interests. I admit that I don’t have the same level of understanding of girls’ popular culture, but things like Little Mermaid, My Little Pony and pretty things seem to apply. I feel sort of awful that I can’t say much on girls’ interests. However, one thing I can say for certain that when it came to board games, the girls were more than eager to play them.
However, crafts was something both girls and boy did equally as much. Visuals were a bit different, but that’s nothing to scoff at. It’s a positive thing to see children of either side of the fence doing what are essentially the same things, just differently. These children don’t really know how to lie yet, mostly exaggerating everything to a large degree. They’re a small mirror of the grown up world with less haze in the way, and with no politics or bullshit ideologies attached. If adults could keep similar simple and honest attitude to the world, with the best elements and without all the bullying selfishness sometimes causes. I guess we all could live slightly more in peace. I guess I too have an ideology consisting of a world where we wouldn’t need to cause harm to each other or force ourselves on other while still giving a hand to those who need it simply because it would be the right thing to do.