We Don’t Have To Fear What We Don’t Understand

Next week I’m turning thirty-one. I’m okay with it; I don’t mind getting older. But I’m scared to death of getting old.

Bill Dwyre of the L.A. Times is an old man. I don’t know how old he physically is, but I can read this column where he called advanced statistics in baseball “gobbledygook” and know that he’s an old man. That column is embarrassing enough on its own, all but pining for a time when guys just “wanted it more” or whatever cliche newswriters told themselves in their time; that it’s attached to the dying medium of a newspaper makes it almost tragic. At least the L.A. Times isn’t locking its content behind a paywall, like the local Kansas City Star has done.

There are plenty of strong takedowns of Dwyre’s article already, like Graham Womack’s and Matt Welch’s. I don’t watch baseball, so I don’t have anything specific to add in that respect. But I do pay close attention to articles like this, if only to know what to watch for in my own life.

We’re all engineered to be selfish and prideful. The things that we like are the best things, and the things that we don’t like are less than the things that we do like. Our choices are correct. If I spend my day watching television and you spend your day playing videogames, the immediate reaction is to say that I made the right decision, and that the thing that I like is better than the thing that I don’t like. If there’s any reason to feel guilty of the thing that I like — societal or otherwise — this reaction is significantly stronger. It’s something I’ve struggled with before, and as I get older i’m very mindful of it.

I watch a lot of football, and football is obsessed with lionizing the previous generation. Anyone who played in the seventies is from the Golden Age of Football, Back When The Game Really Meant Something. A bunch of guys slamming into each other for regular three-yard gains, that’s when Football Was Football and Men Were Men. This current generation of football, the read options, the spread offenses, the disguised zone blitzes, any change to the rules, any change to the stars, it just further separates football from Football.

It’s not enough to idolize the previous generation, though, the current generation has to be torn down to make room for the memories. A few years ago NFL Network did one of their Top Ten episodes, with the topic being tight ends. #8 on that list was Tony Gonzalez, then playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. Ranking above him, a selection of “classic” tight ends, like Dave Casper, John Mackey, and Mike Ditka. I could fill an entire column with my hatred for this list, but I’ll keep it short; the list was made by a bunch of old men afraid of the current generation, so they tore it down to make room for their memories. The best tight end of all time, the only offense for the Kansas City Chiefs for a decade, a player who could not be covered by a linebacker, cornerback, or safety, a man whose only professional drawback as a player is “he is an enthusiastic, but only capable, blocker,” never mind his actual role on the team, and they rank him #8 so they can pat themselves on the back about how great things were in their day.

It’s cowardice.

I’m all angry again.

I get 90% of my videogame coverage from Giant Bomb, and I’ve noticed two really good changes this year. The first thing is coverage of iOS games, and they’re treated with equal respect on the site. There wasn’t a period of hand-wringing, there wasn’t a disclaimer of “these aren’t REAL games,” there’s just Brad Shoemaker obsessing over Kingdom Rush, Patrick Klepek getting spooked by Year Walk, and Jeff Gerstmann commenting on any number of ninety-nine cent games on the podcast. That’s fantastic. Gaming is changing, and there’s no point in being afraid of it for change’s sake.

The other thing came out of a podcast, and I don’t have a transcript or the podcast itself handy, so I’m going to paraphrase. In the midst of a discussion on Gears Of War: Judgment, Ryan Davis made a casual derogatory remark about the fiction in Gears of War, and Jeff Gerstmann cut him off. “I don’t think the problem is with Gears of War, the problem’s with us. Just because this doesn’t resonate with us doesn’t mean it’s bad. There are people — I’ve seen them! — that really, really care about the Gears stuff, and that means Epic’s doing something right there. It doesn’t do anything for us, and that’s fine. It does a lot for them, and that’s great.” Ryan Davis hesitated, then said, “You’re right! That’s a good point! I’m sorry!”

That’s what I’m trying to do. I don’t listen to much new music. I don’t watch any new TV. I’m excited for games that remind me of things that I played when I was younger. I read a lot of books again, books that I’ve read multiple times, books that remind of my childhood or young adulthood. But I’m trying to balance this out. I try to read books by new authors at random, to find new stuff so I don’t get in a rut. I play games I wouldn’t otherwise, like Asura’s Wrath, Hakuoki, and Bastion, to try new things. I’m on a forum full of people older than me and younger than me, and I find that mix of viewpoints and opinions really valuable. I need to keep finding it that way, too, or I’ll stagnate creatively and personally. And if that happens, why bother trying at anything anymore?

I don’t understand a lot of what’s popular now. I don’t understand the appeal of the ‘fun.’ band (I cannot figure out how to reference them) or paranormal romance novels. I don’t understand the appeal of tower defense videogames or anything like DOTA. I don’t understand the appeal of the Adventure Time show, or why you’d want to put a bunch of GIFS in your book reviews on Goodreads.

But my lack of understanding doesn’t mean it’s bad, it doesn’t mean I’m right, and it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It just means they’re different, and there’s never been anything wrong with being different.

I don’t mind getting older, but I don’t want to be like Bill Dwyre. I don’t want to get old.

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