Generational growths

Comics and games share the same stigma of being kids’ stuff. Like any other, the people working in these industries wanted to show otherwise, despite both having more than enough adult material from the very beginning.

Let’s retrace this a bit. Back in the day when I was a wee lad, Masters of the Universe, Transformers and Turtles were the hottest shit around. Not at the same time, mind you. Despite Turtles having its indie comics, the cartoon was far more widespread and popular.

When looking at the modern renders at each franchise’s comics, I found them all catering to the thirty-something hardcore fans. While there is nothing inherently wrong, there is something wrong when that’s the only thing offered in the field of comics. Yet, the mainstream comics outside these three franchises have become something that barely sells and are supported by a similar, if not the same, thirty-something crowd.

It’s a sad world when I can’t even think about buying a Superman comic for my nephew, because I know how much murder and other unsuitable subjects it will have.

There are so many who feel that a franchise should not stay the way it is to become popular. They feel that it should always cater to only them, the people who are the hardest of the core fans, those who made it popular and who have been following a franchise for all their life. The forever basement dwelling virgin doesn’t even describe these people accurately.

These people and their parents have essentially doomed comics and video games in a weird dual movement, where the older generation has deemed and credited both media as nothing more but a children’s entertainment, and then the younger generation has been working hard proving them wrong. The current generation that has grown up with games want to make the games more mature and thoughtful media, but at the same time they’re killing the industry as they are pushing the games medium through storytelling rather than from what’s inherent to games; play. That is not to say that games can’t handle difficult matters, but that’s not what people play games for.

Games, be it computer, arcade or console games, are about a certain level of escapism. The same applies to comics. We consume these products to momentarily leave the everyday worries and politics behind for a while and enjoy something completely different. Games like Gone Home or similar will never be successful if they’re going to be mundane, uncool and force an agenda down your throat. Those games will never beat Super Mario Bros., because SMB is all about fun.

Both comics and games have stifled because neither of them are for everyone anymore. This is very, very clear with comics, but with games you still have the occasional title that still is a hit with everybody.

If you’ve ever wondered why once popular franchise has lost its gleam and fallen into obscurity, it’s basically this. Concentration on a diminishing market rather than expanding it to a wider audience can keep something alive for those fans only, but if a niche is open, it will be filled sooner or later. The new generations will have their own popular franchises the older ones will deem straight up shit and not worthy to compare to what they liked.

Pokémon is twenty years old, rounded up. It’s been a damn big hit with the kids because Pokémon has refused to change to meet the demands of the time. Most of its fans are adults who grew up with Pikachu. When you consider this, it’s no wonder how Yo-Kai Watch became so popular. It’s got a similar approach, much what Level 5 did was something that every single company should be aim to do; design. The main character of Yo-Kai watch was designed to be flawed and have the same problems that the modern kids have. He is not without his faults, but still aims to make the best of everything. The children can see themselves in the protagonist, and I would argue that this is also the very reason many adults can relate to the protagonist as well.

Then you have the fact that very rarely kids want to consciously be fan of the same thing as their parents, at least to the same extent. We can’t force our children to like the same stuff we did, and we shouldn’t. However, Transformers Prime and Nickelodeon’s Turtles cartoons are a proof that when you make your product universally appealing to children and adults alike, you have a golden egg. This exact same damn things applies to comics and games. You don’t need to make them mature; it is essentially cutting their flight short.

The DC Masters of Universe comic could have been great. It has awesome ideas, like Adam having to forge his own Power Sword based on King Grayskull’s, but from the very beginning it was something that wasn’t very MOTU. It is visceral, raw, crude and violent. It does not have the same appeal as the 80’s comics or the cartoon, it’s directed to the old fans only. Hell, the comic read like a fanbook too, but with a constantly changing visual style. It’s extremely jarring to read a comic when characters don’t even look the same, but change with each new story. House style should make a return to comics.

Don’t feel bad when you favourite thing will die out or be replaced with something new.

Recently Spider-Man became Tony Stark with Peter Parker becoming a head of a business and having Spider-Man as his bodyguard and company mascot. I kid you not, this is an actual thing. Luckily, Disney has finally started to make some rulings over MARVEL and we’re getting a comic that concentrates to Spider-Man’s young days, and this comic looks like it could be a hit. The title may be a bit stupid, but this comic is aimed at everybody, just like Spider-Man comics should be.

Kids say the darnest things

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.