So, listen. I know I normally start one of these things with some weird non-sequitur. I babble on about Biker Mice from Mars or phrenology for dogs or whatever, and then eventually ramble my way toward the actual subject I wanted to spend time on. I’m a 90s kid, ok? I watched a lot of Simpsons. Respect the game.
But that’s not gonna happen this time! It’s the holidays! A time for earnestness. Sincerity. Getting shitfaced at Grandma’s and telling Aunt Florette her Etsy store sucks. So, in the spirit of this wonderful time of year, I’m going to start on-topic this week.
Let’s talk about Peter Parker’s sweet, sweet ass.
See, when I was in middle school (“junior high” for all you cool kids who went to school on the set of The OC or Gossip Girl or whatever), I got way deep into pogs. Like, ketamine-bender deep. It was the height of the pog craze which, being in Minnesota, probably meant all the cool kids on the west coast had already gotten over them and moved on to Devil Sticks or Moon Shoes or something.
My parents made the incredibly grievous error of getting me a Milkcap Maker for my birthday around this time. You’d slide in a picture of whatever you wanted, twist the thingy and stamp down on it, and it’d cut a circle out and fix it to an adhesive blank pog.
Do you guys understand? You could make your own pogs. My parents had to know I wasn’t ready to use this kind of power responsibly. I rode my big wheel down a flight of stairs when I was five. And this was before YouTube; I wasn’t imitating Bam Margera. I just thought that’s what “going offroad” was. I mean, they knew what kind of kid they raised.
So of course, I immediately shoved all of my comic books into this contraption and started cutting out pictures of everyone’s butts. Wolverine, Black Widow, Nightwing. Men, women, animals, robots, Marvel, DC, etc. I didn’t discriminate. And you have to understand, these were 90s comics. You all remember what the art looked like in those, right? No, you don’t. The same way you only recall bits and pieces of any tragic event you experience, like a clown car pileup, or an explosion at a ginsu knife factory. Your mind has ways of blocking these things out.
Here! Let me refresh your memory.
I brought a ton of freshly-minted butt pogs to school that week, and because I’m a genius at marketing and human behavior and NOT because I was an idiot kid who got lucky, they were a HUGE hit. I went from being an unpopular loser to being a mildly-less unpopular loser within an insular community of other losers who liked to stack cardboard circles and knock them down with plastic circles.
I was like unto a god. Everybody wanted to slam my stack, if you know what I’m sayin’.
After a while, my fame started to wane, but I was ready. I had a plan. I knew just how ol’ Ryan was going to stay on top of the cut-throat hierarchy of pog culture.
Think about it! If everyone liked what I had to show them out back, wait until they saw the front!
Long story short, I spent a week amassing a new collection of terrifying, 90s-era superhero bulge pogs. Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean.
You can see where this is going. I brought my hideous new gallery to school, ready to blow peoples’ minds with some Andy Warhol-level avant-garde shit. But I was too late. In the span of, like, two weeks, pogs were lame now. Everyone had moved on to Tamagotchis, and since mine ended it’s sad life alone, in my parent’s car in a Sea World parking lot, covered in it’s own digital feces, I’d rather not say anything more about them. It’s too painful. The point is, they were the new thing, and I was left standing there with a literal bag of dicks in my hand.
When you work in a creative field, trends like this come along all the time, and it can be incredibly tempting to give into them when they do. If you enjoy, like, eating food, it’s totally fine to indulge in pumpkin flavored everything in November. But if you were a chef, you wouldn’t only cook with that flavor all the time, right? Or consider fashion; people are always going to follow the latest trends in clothing and try to adapt to whatever designs or traits are up-and-coming, and that’s totally fine! But if fashion designers saw the popularity of drop-crotch pants this year and decided to only make those from now on, the earth would turn into a deep, deep floppy-junk hell from which there is no escape.
I’ll give you an example from my line of work; when indie games were still relatively new, we went through a period where it seemed like the only type of music you’d hear in them was chiptunes. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love chiptunes, and it’s obviously a genre that’s still around, doing great, and has tons of fans. But for a bit there, they were everywhere, whether it fit the game in question or not, and I noticed a lot of composers who didn’t really write in that style started making chiptunes exclusively. As if this would be the only type of game music we’d need or want from here on out. When the craze ended and indie game soundtracks moved on to experiment with new ideas, a lot of the composers who’d gotten lost in the trend were left behind, and had to scramble to catch up.
And that’s kind of the point; no matter what creative field you work in, you’re going to run into trends and fads, and getting too wrapped up in them is never great for your work. Trends aren’t necessarily all bad, and it’s actually great to experiment with them! For example, I messed around with chiptunes a bit myself when they were taking over game music. I learned a lot about how they’re made, why people like them, what connections and feelings they evoke in players. I just didn’t write chiptunes to the exclusion of everything else, and so when the industry started obsessing over other stuff, I wasn’t completely left behind.
If you’re not convinced, just look at the trends we run into in popular culture. Read the title of this blog for god’s sake; how many of those things are going to matter or be recognizable in a few months? A year? Hopefully none!
So keep an eye out for whatever the cool “new thing” is in your creative world. Explore it! Learn from it! Try to figure out what makes it so appealing and how you can use it in your own work! Just don’t get lost in it. If you do that, the Tamagotchis win.
That’s it for this week, so let me hear from you? Ever run into any trends or fads in your line of work? How did you deal with them? Did you get sucked in, and what was the fallout if so? Which superhero has the hottest bulge? Let me know!
Happy Holidays everyone!