My kids are my reference point, I am in awe of how quickly they adapt to new technology and equally frustrated by how long it takes for my son to put his shoes on before school. No doubt I was the same as a kid but a recent trip to the SSE Hydro got me thinking about this (translated) quote from Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr - "The more things change they more they remain the same".
Advance warning, anyone under the age of 30 may not get many of the cultural references that follow. If you don’t, let google (other search engines are available) be your friend. Firstly, let’s put this into context. It is summer 1995, I am 14 and making my way to the Meadows, a park in the centre of Edinburgh. My reason for going, BBC Radio 1’s Roadshow. A few friends and I had heard about it on the radio (unsurprisingly) and Live and Kicking, a Saturday morning TV show on the BBC (one of the four channels for non-Sky subscribers) that, along with SM:TV Live, was staple viewing for my generation. The meadows was packed with teenagers, it was a hot day with Mark Goodier hosting and appearances from Marc Almond, Louise (Redknapp), 911 (a really bad boyband) and The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers promoting their movie. I am pretty sure I got some sort of freebie, stayed for about an hour before we went home to play a bit of Mortal Kombat 3.
Now flash forward 24 years (ouch), and I am standing in line at the SSE Hydro with my 9-year-old son. It is a Sunday evening and we, along with around 6,000 other parents and 5 to 12-year-old kids, are waiting to see Dan TDM’s latest live show, The Contest. For those who don’t know, he is a former Tesco employer and now one of the UK’s biggest YouTubers. With over 21m subscribers and a net worth of over £25m. We have all bought tickets, downloaded the event app (as instructed/demanded) and waiting to part with more cash so that our kids won’t feel left out. My son Struan was part of the Arktikan Tribe, all part of an elaborate story that involved me watching kids from each tribe play video games live on the big screen and spending money on a t-shirt and foam hand thing. After 3 game-based challenges, it culminated with a final challenge that involved Dan TDM playing the latest Nintendo Switch game (the sponsor), Super Mario Maker 2 in order to defeat the evil Kraken tribe.
So what is my point? In an age where we are constantly looking to the future, trying to figure out the next big thing and how we can engage hard to reach audiences, I believe we need to look back and appreciate that the basic principles remain the same. In 1996 we played video games (in the same room), watched TV and read magazines to find out what was coming next, what was cool and read guides on the latest games. Back then if I had given my friends a VHS of me playing video games they would have thought I was mad. Today, my son simply uses what is available to him to find out what is going on and where, much faster, at scale. Today his default is YouTube, watching channels like Dan TDM, Ali-A or Lachlan playing video games or F2 Freestylers and ChrisMD playing football. Tomorrow who knows what it will be, but I am very aware it won’t be long until Twitch is on the list. Despite all of this, he still talks to his friends in the playground and wants to experience live events with them, just look at the impact of the inaugural live Fortnite World Cup. I believe and hope that like me that will be a constant. I will continue to try and understand and immerse myself in different cultures, it helps me gain perspective. My hope is that he and others do the same. Technology, as it always has been, is simply a facilitator. Who knows Dan TDM could go the way of Andy Peters and give out prizes on daytime TV and Power Rangers may stop being made, they may at least change the theme. One thing that I know will remain constant, for the foreseeable, is how many times I have to ask my son to put his shoes on in the morning. Although, he might surprise me one day.