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If you're over 35, do you have a clue?

How well do you know your younger audience? If you're under 35, perhaps pretty well. You share a common trait--having grown up in a world where video games are pervasive. If you're over 35, though, it gets tricky. (And of course those aren't hard boundaries, but they're a good starting point.) If you're over 35, and you do ANYTHING that could possibly be related to those *under* 35, you might want to make reading Got Game a new year's resolution.

The main thrust of the book is the ways in which those *not* of the gamer generation tend to GREATLY underestimate the size and impact of the gamers. You might not agree with all of their conclusions, but it's a fascinating book, and one that some of our over-35 editors have read and finally said, "Oh! I get it now!" about our books.

Here's our own little quiz to see if you still have a clue : ) (just answer a simple yes or no to each)

1) Do you know that "scratching" (the art known by many as "turntabilism") is to today's high schoolers what taking up the guitar was 20 years ago? That to a teenager, it's just another musical instrument (albeit a really cool one)? You're almost as likely today to find a group of college kids getting together to jam with their turnables and mixers as with their guitars and drums. Do you know the difference between rap and hip-hop?

2) Are you aware that knitting is considered hip?

3) Have you visited an Urban Outfitters store, or read the magazine "Ready Made" in the last six to nine months?

4) Have you visited the pop culture section of a Virgin Megastore in the last six to nine months?

5) Do you know that today's high school graduate is unlikely to fully understand the phrase, "into computers"? (Because for most, that's not very different from saying, "into telephones". In other words, the computer is simply a tool/appliance that everyone just HAS as a part of their life. You use it to do the other things you ARE into... chatting, blogging, creating digital music and videos, etc.)

6) Do you know that many high schools in the US teach video editing? Some even using the same tools (Final Cut) used to edit Oscar-winning films like Cold Mountain? Do you know that most high schoolers can name more film directors than their parents can?

7) Do you know that even kids who do NOT play video games are still affected by the culture of the gamer generation?

8) Do you know that the typical high schooler has a much greater visual sensitivity/sensibility than high schoolers of even 15 years ago? (For example, do you know that some of the best graphic art today is found on the back of skateboards and snowboards?)

9) Related to #8, did you know Spike Jonze started his filmmaking career making skateboard movies? And that Spike Jonze co-founded "Girl Skateboards"? Do you know who Spike Jonze IS?

10) Did you know that the coolest Christmas tree you can have right now is... retro aluminum? (And that having a *real* tree is definitely Not Cool, unless you keep it alive by planting it).

If you cannot answer "yes" to most of these, you can start by taking action on #3 and #4. And if your local high school has a video editing class, see if they'll let you sit in one afternoon. These are not your father's "home movies".

And if you're interested in renting out some extremely hip teens (although if you're caught *referring* to them as hip then you OBVIOUSLY don't get it, they'll be quick to tell you), I have a couple I'll be happy to send your way. No charge. They'll reveal their Big Secrets like, "Why I took a photo of a drunk sock monkey." Drunksockmonkey

Posted by Kathy on December 24, 2004 | Permalink


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» Kathy Sierra has a blog from Backup Brain
Kathy Sierra has a blog, Creating Passionate Users. Like everything else she writes, you should go read it. OTOH, I think that she's over-generalizing in her post, "If you're over 35, do you have a clue?" We're both in our... [Read More]

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» If you're over 35, do you have a clue? from i-node one
Apparently, we're no closer to escaping the age-based generalizations of the pre-Internet age. Despite that, some good info herein. Creating Passionate Users: If you're over 35, do you have a clue? How well do you know your younger audience? If ... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 24, 2004 9:32:35 PM


Oh please.... I'm 40 and have 20-something coworkers who have no idea what a blog is, what googling means and they wonder why I don't have any Stones, Beatles or Springsteen on my iPod.

Age is a state of mind. As you can see from my example, there are plenty of 20-somethings working in marketing today who are, in fact, less hip than my 65 year old dad.

Posted by: david parmet | Dec 24, 2004 2:49:38 PM

I'm gonna have to agree with David. I'm 25 and I had no clue (nor to I believe) that "scratching" is the really cool musical instrument of the generation.

I also didn't know knitting was cool. I'd probably beat a dude up if I saw him knitting.

And I've never been in a Virgin Megastore. But then again I've never considered myself "hip". Isn't the cool thing now to be uncool?

Posted by: Josh Einstein | Dec 24, 2004 4:23:26 PM

Josh: "...I had no clue (nor to I believe) that "scratching" is the really cool musical instrument of the generation."

That's what I thought too... until my kids (and a lot of their friends) started working their asses off to buy better and stronger mixers and turntables, not to mention raiding our ancient collection of vinyl. Meanwhile, they let the several thousand dollars worth of acoustic and electric guitars in the house collect dust.

From an article on Grammy.com ( http://www.grammy.com/features/pro/2003/0612_djs.aspx ):

"When Tony Moore, director of international sales for equipment manufacturer Numark, ran the initial sales numbers from last Christmas, the results were remarkable, but not surprising. "Our unaudited numbers indicate that, in the UK at least, DJ turntables outsold guitars," he states. "I wouldn't be surprised if it continues to go that way."

And from a cbs news story at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/03/27/entertainment/main546396.shtml :

"Stephen Webber, a professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, believes deejaying is moving toward widespread musical acceptance, much like jazz overcame its rejection as unstructured folk music, and rock its dismissal as amplified noise. "We have crossed a threshold," Webber said. "It's just starting to make the transition, much like jazz once did, into a legitimate part of the conservatory curriculum.""

Posted by: Kathy Sierra | Dec 24, 2004 6:05:17 PM

Actually, scratching is not all that new - DJs like Afrikka Bambata and Grandmaster Flash were doing it in the late 70s.

One might ask, if you are under 30 do you have a clue that what you think is new is actually older than you are?

Posted by: david parmet | Dec 24, 2004 8:04:01 PM

David: "Actually, scratching is not all that new..."

I think that's exactly the *point*-- that they *don't* think it's new... it's not new, or even particularly hip-- it's just a hobby that as many--or more--kids are taking up as those choosing to play the guitar. The "clue" part is whether those who grew up in the 70's recognize that turntabilism has pushed this far into the mainstream (with of course all the battles between the old schoolers who think the kids who buy made-for-scratching records are "cheating").
The most fun thing I saw at Macworld last year was ScratchTV--a midi-encoded "record" that you put on your turntable, and that used a special device on the arm that read the midi signals and used it to control a Quicktime movie. So there they were... scratching video. Video DJs are taking public domain movies like classic Kung Fu or even a Fred Astaire thing and using conventional scratching techniques to remix the video, live. So it looks to me like what's new today is not scratching, but the ways in which scratching is seeping into other things. Since ScratchTV uses midi, you could, as the Scratch TV brochure says, "Be the first kid on your block to scratch a robot."

Since "clue" is such an overloaded word, I'll qualify that I mean it as "do you have any idea that this is happening?" as opposed to "clue as in Cluetrain" or "clue as in the opposite of clueless" ; )

That a 20-year old doesn't know (or even care) what a blog is does not surprise me (although if they're in marketing, that DOES seem pathetic), because it just isn't a big deal in and of itself to them given that most 15-20 year olds today aren't thinking about the social and commercial impact of the stuff they use. A lot of younger people do have blogs, of course, although most of the ones I know still refer to them as their "Live Journals" rather than using the word "blog". (And I know more than a few teens who would pretty much throw up if they heard someone use the word "blogosphere". Come to think of it, I know a few past-their-teens who feel the same way...)

I personally don't have much of a clue, but I'm aware of that and given that the audience for my books is skewed younger, I'm doing what I can to see how they're different from the older audience. I agree that age is a state of mind, but it's more complex than that, at least according to the brain researchers. It's not about age, though, it's about the environment in which your brain developed. A brain developed during the 50's, 60's, and 70's is wired differently than the brain raised on a profoundly different visually (and motion) oriented world. My kids *see* things in video/film/commercial cuts that are so fast I'm barely aware they happened. Not because my poor older brain isn't what it used to be, but because it just never WAS that way.
The sad thing is that even spending time on my Sony Playstation isn't going to make up for it. There are just things I never will "get". But the research is fun ; )

Posted by: kathy Sierra | Dec 24, 2004 8:40:04 PM

Do you know that most fads last less than 1 year?
Do you know like most parents do that most things that younger people do might not be the best thing for them?
Do you know that you might be talking about a painfully tiny niche market?
Do you know that most people above 35 have real jobs and real money to spend ;)

Like your post though its a bit out of touch with reality because you forget the geekier kids that are into computers (they blog and code)

Posted by: Sam | Dec 25, 2004 8:17:43 AM

Let's see. You've been blogging for 3 days (on this site at least). You start off by insulting "users" (get a clue and find a better term - they're out there) that could be very passionate (yes, over 35ers have passion too) but won't be for your message because you have no way to win us AND no way to convince us you are the authority you seem to be. And your authority to tell us all this is based on one book you've read.

Only someone who is insecure about their understanding of pop culture will be amazed by your revelations. And that's a very old way to sell a product - preying on insecurities and fears. Find a better way.

Posted by: Dave Pentecost | Dec 25, 2004 4:14:22 PM

"In other words, the computer is simply a tool/appliance that everyone just HAS as a part of their life."

This is an overgeneralization. It's true for many high school graduates who are white or asian, suburban, and middle or upper class. OTOH, there are millions of American households that have *no* computer and many schools with 5 yr old Macs running OS 7 (and too few of them).

A lot of kids are in the middle. They have enough exposure to computers to do a simple search and type a paper in Word but that's about it. I've helped plenty of college students to know how many are still pretty "clueless" (and I'm significantly past 35).

The neurological changes in gamers are real. There's a big controversy in medicine right now - solid data shows gamers make better surgeons and that's something older surgeons don't want to hear at all!

Posted by: Sang | Dec 25, 2004 10:19:35 PM

This is off-topic (and late), but Einstein (Dec '04) needs to be publicly called on such a stupid statement:

" 'I also didn't know knitting was cool. I'd probably beat a dude up if I saw him knitting.'
Posted by: Josh Einstein | Dec 24, 2004 4:23:26 PM"

HOW is it that you think you have been given approval power over what people do? And WHY would feel a need for it?

The only thing that shouldn't be tolerated is intolerance.

Posted by: Maurice | Oct 3, 2005 6:16:18 PM

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