Over this past week, I found myself playing games from my childhood and wondering why I’d ever stopped. I guess having my family together for Christmas brought on an extreme case of nostalgia, but it was much more than basic nostalgia. The old games are actually much more fun than anything available today. It’s funny that as a child all I wanted was the newest and brightest toys and games around, but as an adult I am fine with dusting off the old Nintendo or playing monopoly. Part of growing up is basically forming a state of contentment with the things you can’t change while changing the things you can, and along with that contentment comes a realization of what makes things enjoyable. When I was a child I always wanted the newer item because I thought it was better than the one I had, but these days I have realized that a shiny new paint job does not make an item better. It’s no great wonder that advertisers target children so often, it is easier to get a child to want a new item every year than it is for an adult, since most adults are accustomed to wearing the same jeans for years. I think the longing people have for the good old toys and shows of their youth is more than just nostalgia, it is the fact that the products of the past had more heart and were actually more fun than the products of today. These days everything is about glamour and pomp, but when it comes down to it, games were just more fun when nobody cared about how pretty they looked.
I was recently searching through my old things in storage and I made quite a few interesting finds. Aside from the pop culture relics that are my old clothes, I found some toys and video games I used to enjoy. The things I found reminded me of a simpler time, a time when there wasn’t so much regulation on what was actually sold in stores. When I was a child everything was marketed to us, we had toy guns, candy cigarettes, and countless questionable role models. Looking back on life as a child in the 90s, as unsafe as it seemed, it was generally safer than it is today. I know the Internet is a huge part of the problem today, but I just don’t see how playing with certain toys could have adversely affected my growth. One of the toys I found was an action figure of the Marvel character, Punisher, and while I have fond memories of innocently playing with that action figure, I now know that Punisher was basically just a killer, who only targeted bad guys. Knowing what I know now, I would never willingly purchase some of the toys I once played with for my children, but the problem is that new toys and gadgets are being built everyday and they are probably twice as harmful as anything ever sold in the past. There are always studies decrying newly released toys and entertainment devices, but in my opinion, there is never enough time to accurately determine the toxicity of the items in question before they are replaced with the next batch. I would say that my generation turned out relatively well in spite of all the dangerous toys and games, and I believe that no mater what marketing schemes we were exposed to as children, it is our upbringing that ultimately defines our future life choices. As long as parents take an active role in every aspect of their child’s life, I’m sure the kids will turn out just fine.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3 as it is commonly known, is a huge annual fair and trade show that focuses on video gaming. Over the past few years my interest in this event has waned as my priorities have shifted, but from time to time I like to check in to see what good old Nintendo has in store for their fans. Every year during this event, the major video game companies hold key note speeches in which they show off their newest gadgets and demo their newest software. I’d like to say that the excitement for this event is at the same level as it has always been, but it is clear that the world of gaming has shifted from the way it was in the past. Today’s most popular video games are usually played on mobile phones and tablet devices, and since these mobile games are free, they have a larger following than traditional console games. Console gaming is quickly becoming extinct due to the high price of both hardware and software, and the lack of direct developer support that is seen on mobile gaming platforms. This year’s E3, at least to this observer, seems to be crucial to the future of home video game consoles. The rising cost of game development and the poor customer demand for consoles has made video games unappealing to former “gamers” and unprofitable to many companies. In this year’s event many companies have turned to independent developers in order to push their hardware, but it seems like these companies are trying too hard to emulate the success of mobile gaming. Mobile games are easy to pick up, and drop at anytime, and that is a feature that today’s massive consoles will never be able to copy. I believe that game creation is an art akin to making a movie, instead of going cheaper I hope to see major game companies release monumental games. I used to love playing games that had a great story and larger than life visuals, and I feel that in order for consoles to stay relevant they must return to high priced production, hopefully it would be a gamble that pays off and reignites interest in the hobby of gaming.
In honor of my 151st post, I will write about my favorite childhood television show, Pokemon. Pokemon are those funny looking little Japanese critters with magical powers, who happen to resemble everyday creatures that inhabit our real world. I have been told that there are now over 600 of these little creatures on the show and in the video games, but when I was a child the number was limited to 151 creatures that needed to be captured and trained. The Pokemon franchise was huge in the late nineties, as the creatures graced almost every setting, when I look back on it I realize that Pokemon was more of a pop culture phenomenon than just a children’s game. I was just a kid when the series was first introduced in America so I only saw it as a fun game, but it was often referenced in comedy shows, and was also in the news for several different reasons. I have to admit, I was somewhat obsessed with these things as a child, I was always talking about the game, and looking for ways to “catch em all,” as the slogan stated, it is funny just how much I have grown out of something that I was so entrenched in as a child. The Pokemon series has lost much of its popularity in the years since its release, due to repetition, but it has shown the power marketing and visibility has on advancing a brand. Before Pokemon was introduced many product makers worked on selling their merchandise through television and radio advertisements, but Pokemon spread its footprint by being an advertisement. The television show was secondary to the games and products, which were already pushing sales by advertising the need to get all of the creatures. Pokemon changed the way people market products to children, and it was memorable enough to create a generation of adults who will never forget the hours of fun spent playing. I would love to see a new product make this kind of impact, but after Pokemon everything else seems like an imitation.
Baseball, one of America’s oldest sports, is finally going through some changes. There is a new commissioner in town and he is looking to make his mark on the aging sport. Rob Manfred, in his first year as commissioner, has already implemented a new countdown clock in efforts to speed up the game, and now he is looking to shorten the season. I love the idea of shortening the season, I think it is perfect for the fans, and for the players who have to endure 183 days away from their families. Baseball currently has a 162 game season, and in some divisions the games are no longer competitive after about 90 games. Aside from no longer having to watch a team run away with a pennant, I would be glad to see players getting the chance to spend more time with their families and away from the troubles of traveling. It is early in the Manfred era, but as a casual baseball fan I am excited about the changes he is bringing the sport. I am confident that under the leadership of Manfred, baseball will once again be known as “America’s Sport,” and I am eager to see what other changes he has in store for the old ball game.