I was recently visited by the Ghost of Pop Culture Future. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised because I was in Florida at the time and the message that he was giving me was something that Floridians, and (what do you call someone who is from Orlando? Orlandites? Orlandoians? Old people? Let’s go with the first because it properly conveys an image of minerals and minerals are old) Orlandites are quite familiar with.
The Ghost of Pop Culture Future warned me that one day, I would be out of touch with pop culture. As the writer of a pop culture website, it came as frightening message that I would one day be pop culturally ignorant. I haven’t gotten to the specifics of the visit, however, so let me backtrack to that story.
The National Writing Project conference was being held in Orlando and I went as part of the Ozarks Writing Project chapter. I had signed up for a few different workshops, but I was most excited for the two on the subject of video games. The first titled “Building video games for and in the classroom” with Alan Gershenfeld and the second was titled “Taking gaming to the next level” with Barry Joseph, Paul Allison, and Grace Raffaele (more on ALL of this tomorrow, I promise).
In both of these sessions, the topic of video games in the classroom was being discussed and I was excited at the promise of being able to talk about video games with other educated and like-minded teachers as myself. The thought of not being an anomaly in the teaching world (a nerd teacher who wanted to incorporate pop culture into a classroom in order to generate student interest with literature) was especially exciting considering that I had recently heard the sentence “I don’t understand what you’re saying half the time” from multiple people.
Will you allow me a short, but meaningful, diversion for a moment?
. . .
I probably should be more upset by the “I don’t understand what you say half the time” sentence, but I’m so accustomed to it by now that it doesn’t bother me anymore. I was the only kid in my high school who read comic books, so I had no one to talk about them with. It never really bothered me as a kid, and I was never picked on for liking comic books, so I suppose I don’t mind not being understood. I talk about things that I am passionate about and if not everyone gets it, that’s fine with me. Maybe they will research the topics I enjoy and maybe they won’t. It’s my hope that they will so we can further discuss what the topic actually means, but if it doesn’t come to pass, that’s all right.
On days when the person telling me that they don’t understand me is saying it to hurt my feelings, I want to respond, “oh yeah? Well I don’t CARE about anything that you have to say.” But I don’t. I just smile and respond with, “that’s okay. I get that a lot.”
I promise that this digression will have a point.
Lots of promises in this post.
I was at the NWP National Meeting in my very first video game session when I sat down to some people who looked like nerds, and I struck up a conversation. “What games do you play?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t really play too many games,” a guy responded, “I just thought this would be fun.”
In the next session, I was so fed up with these faux nerds that I resorted to my old standby when I get upset; make everyone in the room laugh. Turn every moment into the Cody Walker show. I know that seems a bit self-centered but the alternative to making people laugh is to turning into a jerk that wants to make everyone miserable, so I think my option is the better of the two.
When asked what game makes me happy, I responded, “I can’t just pick one, so I have to go with Scott Pilgrim, Castlecrashers, and the Champions of Norrath games. Basically, any game that lets me play games with my wife makes me happy.”
The crowd went “awwwwww” and I said, “at first you were all like ‘listen to this nerd! He won’t shut up!’ and then you’re like ‘I can’t believe anyone would marry him. That is so sweet.’”
As the sharing continued, something became apparent to me; I was one of three people who mentioned a video game. Out of 40 something people, I was one of three that mentioned a video game and I was the ONLY one who mentioned a console game. Some of the other choices were okay – board games and card games played with children seems perfectly acceptable to me – but the people who chose Text Twist and other iphone app games frankly, pissed me off.
75% of the crowd had never played a video game and if they had, their concept of video games was relegated to either Pac-Man or Mario. Not even an Oregon Trail fan could be found in the mix. The older teachers I could understand, but the teachers my age should have been gaming under the pretense that they were trying to keep in touch with what kids like so they could relate to their students.
And that was when the Ghost struck.
“Look aaaatttt the futurrrreeee,” the Ghost called out to me, “This is what the future holds for youuuuuuuuu.”
“You mean, I will be old and out of touch with the world?” I asked.
“Yessssssss. No one will understand the referencessssss youuuuuu maaaaaaaake.”
Then, he showed me a vision of myself in the future. He showed me May 23, 2015. I turn 30 years old and suddenly, I stop reading comic books.
Five years later, I sell my video game systems because I don’t use them anymore.
Ten years later, and movies no longer interest me.
He showed me my life as it currently is and I saw that I had already given up finding new music for myself. I was stuck listening to many of the same albums that I had listened to in high school. He showed me that my CD player had Dashboard Confessional’s Unplugged album in it and I felt a wave of disappointment in myself.
When did I stop seeking out new music?
“What can I do?” I cried out in my mind to the Ghost of Pop Culture Future.
He didn’t say a word. He left me to my thoughts and my fears. I continued to make my jokes and to power through the session making cultural jokes and talking about video games, but in the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop seeing that future me.
He wore no superhero t-shirts.
He didn’t touch a video game controller.
He never watched movies.
I know that pop culture doesn’t define a person, but I know that personally, pop culture has helped me inform my opinions about the world. Entertainment is a safe lens through which we can see our world and evaluate current circumstances or the way things could be. I don’t believe in “high culture” and “low culture” I only believe in finding things we love and learning from them and I can’t stand thinking about that being taken away.
So, when people say that they can’t understand half of what I say, I don’t need to worry about it too much because they’ve given up on pop culture. Somewhere along the way, they have decided that they are done with it and while I can’t understand what would prompt one to stop caring about movies, music, comics, etc., I . . . um . . . I honestly don’t know how to end this sentence.