There is this ongoing problem that I’m (and most likely you) are aware of. Because we do love to lament the “dumbing-down” of our current crop of kids (just ike out parents did, and their parents did on back through time). It’s been brought back into focus for me by some of the recent goings on around the Hugo Awards, but also I just had a glowing, glaring example shoved in my face this morning by my own two kiddos (which was disturbingly topical).
The Things downloaded the newest Black OPS Beta this morning and are going through it, nitpicking every single thing they have ever seen in another game. Thus far we have: Jetpacks being stolen from Halo, Giant Mechs being stolen from Titanfall, Supers/Specials being stolen from Destiny… Do you see where this is going?
All of their references are from recent games they have played in their very short lifetimes. They have no clear knowledge of the history of Mechwarrior as a tabletop RPG, or the many attempts to bring the Giant Mech Battle games to the videogame fold. They have no idea that jetpacks in the FPS genre are decades old, in fact, you might as well say that Jetpack Joyride stole their jetpack idea from Halo, for all the sense that makes.
Now, because I’m a bit of a Legacy-buff, I’ll spend some time educating my kiddos on this (as I do on a number of topics, including the history of science fiction, robotics, spycraft, space exploration, etc). I also know from experience that it will probably not stick as well as I’d like (or, they will continue to kvetch because it’s a power and control thing, rather than actual, genuine kvetching). But it brings to mind the question, how do we, as fans, as developers, as CREATORS or a product, widen that lens of experience?
Historically (or so I am given to understand) this was the job of the previous generation. The established would tell their stories to the new and the new could move forward with a better-informed fanview. But there are a couple of key problems with this.
One, fandoms (games, pop-culture, etc.) are bringing in people faster than ever. You no longer need an entre to become a part of fandom, you can hop online and find a group of new fans to join and even meet up with at conventions. That means that the influx of new people is looking through the aforementioned lens of limited experience. That’s not a BAD thing, but it means that those that went before have to spend extra time and effort to educate (which, granted, is annoying, I get that. You don’t get to rest on your laurels, you have to show the color of your boxers every time you meet a newbie).
Two, no two people remember things the same way. So what might be an insult to one party was a clever turn of phrase by another. Yes, we should all be able to sort these things out, but when the grievance was decades old, reliable information may be hard to come by, and the “newfans” won’t know if a mistake has been made, if they are just listening to one piece of a complex issue, and where/how to correct it.
Ideally, there ought to be a frictionless way to sort this out (yes, I know EFFORT should genuinely be put in, but humans, all humans, are designed to be lazy critters, we need to work around that). But barring that, I think a certain level of awareness might be the best, first solution. If newfans are aware that they are missing something (because many of these fan-bases have stunningly and engagingly rich histories and a stunning number of fans seem to be unaware that fandom existed long before they were born) and the fanbase can find ways to make that information obviously available, then we might be able to reestablish a coherent, fully-shared experience.
Witness File 770, for example, which was established as a single-source record of the recent Hugo divide. Almost every writer with a fanbase of their own has repeatedly referenced it so that newfans know, and that unified sourcing has made a very big difference.
Thing is, there’s no way around this yet without a metric butt-load of work on the part of one or more people. This kind of thing has been tried before, with varying degrees of success. And it does have to be a small, ongoing group, you can’t pass this kind of thing from one elected keeper to another because then you lose the purpose, and agendas get involved and eventually the whole thing goes down under a pile of bit-rot. We have hit a point where those databases of memory can be easily searchable, the trick now is going to be making sure they contain the best (and preferably impartial) reporting on events, as well as including all the old histories as far back as we can go.