Friday, 29 April 2016

Random Musings

It's common belief that every generation believes that the music and culture of it's own 'teen era' was the best.

That may be the case but, in the case of the 1980s there genuinely was a surfeit of pop culture. I would say that if you are under 40 you probably didn't truly experience the decade and everything it had to offer.

It was a time of contrasts, wherein politics, fashion and music alone could get you into a lot of trouble. This was a time when rock was starting to reemerge after the punk pogroms of the late 70s whilst punk itself was mutating into post-punk, new wave, and a plethora of other subdivisions including, new romantic, urban vagabond, goth.

It was important that you belonged to a tribe, and identified with it. Moreover you had to be seen to be doing so. At the very least, wearing the wrong t-shirt in the wrong place could mean verbal abuse. In more extreme cases it could mean a serious kicking.

When you try to get the youth of today to understand, they just can't. This is odd because they live in a world where violence is a constant social graphic. Perhaps that's it... Because they see 'designer violence' in games and on TV they are desensitised to it and this is perhaps when real violence is experienced they seem to be more emotionally affected, because they suddenly realise that pain and injury cannot just be shrugged off, that they cannot re-spawn and try again.

They seem to have all the swagger and the anger, but frankly a quick pop on the nose will have them crying for compensation and 2 years of psychologist appointments to get over it.

I think this unhealthy. They are so down on the world, obsessed with doom and gloom that it even carries across into the kinds of games that are on offer. This is a generation which appears to want nothing more than to inhabit game worlds where they are just the same as in their real life, but with swords. The game worlds are filled with grim darkness, misery and a total lack of hope. There are exceptions, I will admit, but  since the mid-90s we have seen games drift away from the traditional sci-fi and fantasy genres, to gritty and discordant multiverses which, make the darkest moments of Elric or Jerry Cornelius look like an episode of Postman Pat. It doesn't really feel like escapism anymore. What's more, everything has to be explained. No more can something 'just be', and so again we lose a sense of wonder and magic.

We of the 80s suffered the rantings of the media , and concerns of our parents who thought we were actively partaking in magical rituals, despite the fact that we were too obsessed with playing games to waste time on that kind of stuff (apart from on Sunday nights when Granny was over for tea and it was either rustle up Beelzebub or suffer 'Songs Of Praise'.

Nowadays, there are a large proportion who fashion themselves 'Wiccan', 'Magicians' or '7th Day Fluffy Bunnyists', who believe that they have magical powers, but at the end of the day they are pretty certainly nothing more than kids who believe the social inclusion hype that they are in some way special. They are, but not in the way they think. What makes them special is that like everyone else they are alive for a while. Because all believe they are special, they go to greater extremes to stand out.

Christ, I remember when a mohawk would get you a four week suspension from school, and the kind of speech patterns which can get you up in front of a magistrate were routine. Nobody told us we were special. True, we knew we were, but this disposable attitude, I think, meant that those of us who were not athletes or part of the 'in crowd' formed very tight and very secret friendships. Our peer group consisted of social outcasts, those with the flares when tight jeans were in fashion, who had the basin haircuts or whom were not permitted to roam the streets at night.

We were to be found in dimly lit dining rooms and bedrooms, vanquishing foes, saving or destroying worlds, and forming friendships which in many cases have been lifelong. If we were lucky we found clubs where older outcasts introduced us to more refined games, gave us pointers on how to get on with the world and I know in my case provided ears that could not be found at home, to help deal with the tribulations of teen angst. John Armatys, Paul Bishop, Lloyd Powell and Steve Roberts were just some of those people who got me through my youth. Chris Gilbride & Pete Armstrong taught me the art of the one liner and smart arsed retort. Lisa Brook and Anne Bishop were surrogate sisters when we couldn't talk to the older gamers.

Most of those people have become estranged from me in recent years as I became less tolerant of things and behaviours in others, just as I think they have done with me.  But I am happy and proud to have known them.

I feel that I experienced something special and as I said, I am truly proud to have had the opportunity to meet people like that, because I don't think that the gaming youth of today have that safety net, that weather vane of social correctness.

Those in their late 30s are far more self-obsessed, far more intent on living an ideal life, rather than nurturing the generation growing up in their shadow. They make anything that they themselves are too young to truly remember into a parody, that has to be worn like a badge of honour. Nerd, geek and dork are no longer insults, but badges of cool and a declaration of their special status, whilst oldies such as myself and those who led the charge before my generation are for the most part disregarded as irrelevancies rather than as keepers of a the history of the early days of gaming, a living connection to the roots. No, they re-write, and alter history - and make no mistake it is history and worth recording for posterity. We sat on the nexus between the pre- and post computer eras, we were the first generation to play computer games, to play Dungeons & Dragons and tread the paths for those who would follow, even when it could get us a damn good kicking from the so-called 'cool kids'. (Odd, how the interesting girls preferred our company...)

We lived in the times that they both revere and parody in equal measure.

It was a good time to be alive, and we were.


PS: And we had Wilma Deering!

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