You just had to be there

By Chuck Sigars | May 29, 2013

My son, who is 23, tells me about an online video game he plays based on the “Star Trek” franchise. He’ll go into tremendous detail, as he tends to do, and my eyes glaze over, as they tend to do.

I’m going to take a leap and call this generational, although video games (that feels like an archaic term, I know, and a redundant adjective, like “color television,” but just so you know it’s not Monopoly) are not niche entertainment for a subset of the culture anymore.

They cross lines, and where the demographics change it’s probably due to not having the time to play.

But I missed it, the beginning of gaming. I was there while it happened, but I didn’t grow up with it, which is my excuse for being just pathetic at it. The first video games entered this household when I was 31, young enough to enjoy the novelty and have some fun trying to save the two-dimensional princess with the help of that Mario guy, but too old to learn new tricks.

Maybe it’s like tennis; after a certain age, you’re never going to be that good, no matter how hard you practice. You have to start young.

That’s not to say that my inadequacies with a controller are age-related alone; plenty of people of my generation apparently enjoy gaming, evidenced by the way I’m treated in game stores when I’ve gone in to buy something for my son.

They assume it’s for me, and so I endure friendly commentary on the qualities of this or that game while my eyes, as I said, glaze over. It’s like hearing a foreign language only understood by nerds.

Sorry. That just slipped out. I mean no disrespect. I have controller deficiencies. It makes me strike out in frustration.

How this cultural ignorance happens has been on my mind, though, and some of it has to do with, in fact, “Star Trek.” My son knows the franchise, knows the characters and the canon, because he grew up with the various iterations, even after his parents had moved on.

We started it, though, and for definite generational reasons.

The original “Star Trek” first aired when I was 8 years old, too young to be up late enough to watch, but then not a lot of people watched anyway. The show only got a third season because of an unprecedented viewer campaign, but it was never a hit.

The sets were taken down, the actors moved on to other assignments, and the show slipped off into the darkness of syndication.

Where it thrived, during the early 1970s, which is when I (and my cohort) discovered it, usually in the afternoons after school. We were young enough, maybe, to be entertained by the ray guns but old enough to sense something special, something we weren’t seeing with the regular TV fare.

We became faithful Trekkers, then, and as we grew up the franchise did, too. We saw the movies, and we celebrated when “Star Trek: The Next Generation” first aired in 1987, at which time the original series had become the most-watched syndicated TV show of all time.

And like hair color and a love for all things pizza, some of us passed this affection down to our offspring. I know I did.

No wonder, then, that my son enjoys the game. And no wonder that some of his friends are clueless about Vulcans and Romulans. You maybe had to be there, or know someone who was.

This is worse now, or better, depending on how important you view cultural cohesiveness. Our choices exploded, first with independent stations and syndicated shows (such as “The Next Generation”), then cable, then VHS and DVD, and now online streaming.

We can find our own niches, thanks very much, and we do. What you watch won’t line up with what I do, and there are plenty of other forms of entertainment to take up our time and dollars. We pretty much have to stick to talking about the weather.

None of this explains why I haven’t seen the new J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” film yet. I loved his first one, ditching my Trek purity at the door and enjoying his reboot of the franchise just fine.

Some of it has to do with taking the time and money to actually see something in a movie theater, which involves sitting in a room with other people, some of whom mysteriously forget they’re not supposed to talk or use their phones. Some of it is just being busy.

And some of it may be other diversions. I spent a rare free evening last weekend not with Spock and Kirk, but watching multiple episodes of the new season of “Arrested Development” on Netflix.

Another show with a three-year run, another show with a small but passionate audience, the new “Arrested Development” is part of Netflix’s plan to become HBO before HBO becomes Netflix, or something. At any rate, I’m a fan and looked forward to this iteration, too.

But you didn’t, probably. You probably wouldn’t know what I was talking about if I mentioned the Bluth family or mentioned one of the approximately 1 trillion catchphrases from the show.

Or maybe you would, but you have to be the right age. I have no idea. I just know what I enjoy, and I know that I’m sorry about calling some of you nerds. I’m a little bitter about the controller thing.

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