Grown Up Kids

A few days ago I caught the trailer to a film known as Wreck It Ralph.

It’s the classic story of an individual’s quest to discover who he really is. The kicker is that the titular character is actually a boss in a videogame who realizes that he no longer wants to be seen as an antagonist.

The premise seemed pretty decent to me but there was a scene that really got me laughing (and also destroyed any ambitions my partner had at sharing my popcorn). It opens up with what appears to be a bad guy support group; those in attendance are M. Bison, Clyde, Bowser, Zangief, Robotnik and several creatures.

Anyways, Zangief begins speaking, complete with a Russian accent, to the crowd and explains how being a “bad guy” doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person.

Naturally, I’m spraying seltzer on both my popcorn and the unbelievably nice guy who was unfortunate enough to sit in front of me. I wasn’t laughing because of the content within Zangief’s speech but because fucking Zangief, Bison, Robotnik and Bowser are all in the same room having a heart-wrenchingly sincere and intelligent discussion.

What made me feel really good was that everyone in the theater started laughing once they saw the legends that were appearing on screen as well. This laughter evolved into cheers, claps and victory leaps upon hearing Zangief speak. Mind you, there were no children in the theater; it was a very late showing for a rather mature movie, the theater was comprised of only adults.

Adults were laughing at a videogame character all for the same reason but if you asked them why they were laughing they would never be able to successfully explain to you why.

I’m sure some of you are already aware of this but this experience enlightened me; we are in a period in which videogames are a part of our mainstream culture; not merely a culture existing on its own, separate from the mainstream, but one intertwined with how we perceive our world.

Let me try to simplify that.

When I was a wee lad, one Halloween I dressed up as Link.
Yea, that Link.

You may think, but you’re too tall to be Link, Shola.

It didn’t matter. I loved the character and my phenotypic incongruence would not stop me from becoming him on that hallowed day. Shockingly, few people knew who I was and my mom slaved over that shield man, making sure that the triforce and winged creature were in perfect scale to the rest of the doohickies that adorned the crest.

Nowadays however, children can point out characters from videogames before they can fucking walk. This is because our media is saturated with references to the culture of gaming. So saturated, in fact, that they have become inextricably bound together. From slangs and mannerisms to food and clothes, the videogame culture has as much sway in affecting a purchase as… well, whatever you can imagine. Marketing firms pay millions of dollars to gain rights to certain videogame characters just to promote something that has nothing to do with gaming.

It’s crazy.

I don’t think any of these things would be possible if it weren’t for the fact that there are so many business professionals that are closet gamers (or were brought up during the retro age of gaming, thus cementing their citizenship into the gaming culture) and they use that experience to create messages that captivate, amuse or persuade. This only works because of the inexplicable effect that nostalgia has on our higher thought processes.

The reason everyone laughed in the theater upon hearing Zangief speak is nostalgia. All gamers know that Zangief is Russian, but when we see that Disney knows that as well, bricks are immediately shat. We fail to realize that the new blood behind the production of these forms of entertainment are composed of people just like us who were at one time cursing Zangief to hell as he grappled our character and spun towards the ground, resulting in a swift KO.

I’m sure that if this same trailer was played a decade ago the reaction would be in stark contrast to what I experienced.

The kids who were at one time clocking countless hours on their favorite videogame are now the adults that write the scripts and marketing ads that are in the movies and commercials we see every day.

I know, I know… people grow up; it’s been happening since humans existed. But whenever I look at a billboard or comic strip and I see a subtle joke in reference to a game that only a chosen few would understand, I can’t help but smile.

As I looked around the theater, I was certain that everyone had at least considered watching that movie whenever it comes out. I am almost sure that if it wasn’t for that support group scene, which displayed the producers’ understanding of the 90′s gamer kid and how they perceive their beloved videogames, no one would think twice about the film (I’m sure it will be great though).