That’s Entertainment?!

courtesy Gracie Films, 20th Television, and I guess now Disney

I realize this blog will make me sound like an old man railing about kids today (hence the “Simpsons” meme I posted above), but I can’t help it. Like it or not, I am old, I am a man, and I do have kids that I just don’t understand sometimes (a la D.J. Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s 1988 hit). When I was a kid myself in the early ‘90s, I had a fake radio station called “W.I.E.R.D. T.V.,” despite the fact that I spelled “weird” wrong and it was really “radio,” not T.V. One of the characters I created was a weird dude (hence the name of the show) who did nothing but play videogames all day while narrating what he was doing, so, for example, if he was playing “RoadBlasters” on the original Nintendo, he would loudly and obnoxiously say the most obvious statements (while the videogame’s music and sound effects blasted away in the background). Things like, “OH NO, I BETTER WATCH OUT FOR THAT LAND MINE. THAT’S NOT GOOD IF I HIT A LAND (loud explosion)-OH NO! I HIT IT! I’M DEAD!!” His catchphrase was, “Yay. Yay! YAY!!” (in increasing volume as I placed my mouth closer and closer to my radio’s microphone).

The joke of the character/sketch was that he was becoming increasingly brain-dead while playing videogames all day, and it was almost an endurance test to listen to him go on for minutes on end. This was proven when I played a snippet of my character for one of my best friends, and, interrupting the tape while recording himself over it, he sneered (a la Bugs Bunny), “Nyaaaahhhh…shaddup!” We all had a good laugh.

I’m not laughing anymore. I should’ve patented that character right then and there; I could’ve made a mint (as we used to say in the old days). If you go online today, specifically YouTube, there are hundreds (thousands?) of channels devoted to people playing videogames while loudly and sometimes obnoxiously narrating what they’re doing while they’re doing it. And they literally have millions of subscribers and followers. If you have kids, you know I’m not exaggerating.

One of my kids’ favorite YouTubers is a guy called The Frustrated Gamer, who not only seemed to steal my idea from the early ‘90s but also stole Conan O’Brien’s “Clueless Gamer” shtick. True to his name, The Frustrated Gamer plays a series of Internet games on YouTube while loudly narrating what’s happening. That would be bad enough, but he rattles off his thoughts in a shrill, stream-of-consciousness shout and barely comes up for air to take a breath. So we get such witty bon mots as:

“OHMYGODWHATISTHISHOWDOIEVENOHWOWLOOKOVERTHERE!AMISUPPOSEDTOCLICKONTHISBUTTONNOPE!GUESSI’LLTRYTOWHATJUSTHAPPENED?THISISCRAZY!”

And on and on. I wish I was exaggerating, but exhausted parents know I’m not. Of course, every video of these YouTubers ends with, “Don’t forget to Like and subscribe!” so they can grow their minions, I mean followers.

I suppose these videos are better than the simple “unboxing videos” my kids used to watch when they were younger: clips of kids and young teens slowly opening presents to see what’s inside. That was it. That was literally the entire video, and again, they were and still are enormously popular. If you showed me a video of a kid opening a present when I was younger, I would last maybe 30 seconds (“Why would I care about what some other kid got?”) and then go watch an episode of “Transformers” or “G.I. Joe.” You know, something with an actual plot.

I’ll wrap this up with a tenuous connection to my book, since this blog is ostensibly still about Danger Peak. You don’t have to love Danger Peak. You don’t even have to like it. But you can’t deny that the book has a story, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. It has a plot fairly easy to navigate with actual characters who have specific personalities and share (dare I say it?) witty dialogue. There is action, drama, conflict, and comedy. Again, you don’t have to like how I treated any of these elements, but the elements are nevertheless there. In these endless YouTube videos my kids and seemingly the rest of the world’s kids watch, these elements are nonexistent.

Call me old-fashioned, which this entire blog seems destined to do, but the story elements I highlighted above were what I was raised with. Lucas. Spielberg. Judy Bloom. Even Dr. Seuss. Yes, Seuss invented words, mangling the English language just to force a rhyme, but he actually told full-fledged stories, with morals to boot. Last month, I had to basically force my kids to sit through “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the animated original, not the Jim Carrey abomination), and, not to make too grandiose of a statement, but I feel we as a society have lost something. Is this the way kids are going to consume entertainment in the future, the importance of story be damned?

In the meantime, I’m hoping my kids grow out of this stage and come to learn to appreciate the fine art of storytelling, particularly since a storyteller is how I’m gradually classifying myself these days.

MTP

P.S.: Next week’s blog: Surprise Announcement #1

P.P.S.: Danger Peak is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

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