Why Children of the 80s were the Last Generation of Outsiders

by Jason Gross @SockofFleagulls on June 28, 2012

in The 80s

I found this week’s UnderScoopFire Podcast #39: Geek Confessions thoroughly entertaining as most of you have. It was a riot to hear some unadulterated confessions by the Voltron roundtable.

I think we often get the impression that when people are aligned with a particular niche (“children of the 80s” in this instance) that those people know and have experienced absolutely everything about that niche. The fact is, we don’t! None of us have, unless you’ve been a bubble boy since 1978. That being said, I think I know why some “major” things have slipped through the cracks for us children of the 80s.


Some 80s Confessions

A common practice among Twitter users is the “Follow Friday” tweet (commonly abbreviated as #FF). It’s a weekly way to let the world know who you enjoy following on Twitter and to recommend your followers do the same. USF’s Corey Chapman has given me #FF tweets like “if you think you know 80s music, then you haven’t met (me).” I’m humbled by remarks like that, but also think… “Man, there is so much I don’t know. How can I live up to statements like that?” Then came this week’s Geek Confessions podcast.

It was like a weight off my shoulders, knowing that I’m not the only one who has missed the boat on stuff that I’m “supposed” to know all about. I have some 80s confessions that I’ve voiced already on USF and on Twitter.

There are many 80s movies that I hadn’t seen until the Netflix era. I won’t go through that list, but some that I still haven’t watched all the way through include “Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Aliens”, “Rain Man”, “Platoon” and “St. Elmo’s Fire”.

I’ve never liked the Legend of Zelda, Metroid, or Mega Man video games or any versions thereof. I’ve also never watch a single full episode of any Star Trek TV show and have only seen bits of the movies and the most recent reboot movie.


The Last Generation of Outsiders 

I know why we children of the 80s have confessions to make. I know why we missed blockbuster films, countless TV show episodes and every album released by Howard Jones….WE WERE OUTSIDE!! Those of us who grew up in the 80s are the last generation of outsiders.

If you could go back in time and document how many hours I spent outside vs. inside from 1980-89, you probably would think I was a gypsy. It was outside first and inside a distant second (and that’s only if there were hurricane force winds or lightning strikes less than 30 seconds apart). I remember a time when being inside sucked! And that was even when Atari was around.

I’d like to meet a single person who could play an Atari game for more than 10 minutes and not say either “This is stupid…I can’t even make it past level 1!” or “Okay, I did it in 1 minute and 42 seconds…now what?” We didn’t have massive campaigns to conquer or online video games. We played them for 30 minutes tops when it was raining outside and then it was onto the battle of Eternia vs. Cybertron until the rain let up.


Get Outside!!

If we did fire up the Atari on a sunny day, we heard: “GET OUTSIDE!”

“But I wanna play matchbox cars, mom!”

“You can. OUTSIDE!”

“But what if they get all dirty?”

Haven’t you ever heard of a car wash? OUTSIDE!”

Our parents would kick us out and let us pretty much do whatever we wanted within a three scream radius of our back porch. Once we got over being kicked out, we loved it outside.

We would try to gather enough kids for a wiffleball game, make a large rectangular brown spot in the lawn via the slip-and-slide, build G.I. Joe forts in the woods with tools “borrowed” from dad’s workbench, or play “jailbreak” with the neighborhood kids from dusk ’til our parents remembered we were still outside.

That’s why we have gaps in our 80s timeline. We missed all those movies, shows, and music videos….and we didn’t care!


I Blame It On Mario

So what happened to make being inside the number one choice nowadays? I blame it on Mario. That’s right; it was a plumber who screwed up our priorities…actually it was 40.24 million plumbers (according to Wikipedia) that enticed entire households to stay indoors. If it wasn’t for him, we’d all have Atari 12600 systems and be playing Barnstorming: The Revenge of the Windmills and E.T.ski (Googs’ favorite).

Mario came along and pretty much resurrected the video game industry from a warp zone to hell. Our wiffleballs ended up as chew toys for the dog. The slip-and-slide became a drop cloth for dad’s oil changes. The G.I. Joe forts were blanketed with leaves and pine needles. There wasn’t a neighbor kid that would leave the house until they found the princess’ castle.


It’s Our Turn

Now, most of us have kids of our own and have experience with the generation of insiders. We can blame it on the society in which we live nowadays (my kids’ screaming radius is a lot closer than my parents’ ever was). Times have changed after all, but it’s our turn now to kick them out of the house once in awhile.

Pick up a wiffleball set at the dollar store and have them miss an episode of Phineas and Ferb. Tell them it’s okay to get grass stains on their knees. Otherwise, they might usher in the human era depicted in WALL-E. (Wow, how did this turn into a “save the children” plea? Is that Sarah MacLachlan playing in the background?)

Also, don’t be too harsh with the people who have made the geek or 80s confessions. Finding out how they could have possibly missed some of these large pieces of pop culture is half the fun! I suggest making a list of your own and ask your friends which ones on your list are worth the time to experience now.


shezcrafti June 28, 2012 at 11:35 am

“I’d like to meet a single person who could play an Atari game for more than 10 minutes.”

Uh.. hi. I’m one of those people. The only thing that caused me to quit Atari was either Mom yelling at me to go do my chores or the inevitable pain those god-awful uncomfortable joysticks caused.

I just discovered you by way of The League. Looks like we have a lot in common. I know exactly how you feel re: slipping through the cracks! Luckily we have this amazing series of tubes to keep us all in the know and supplement our collective memories. Awesome Twitter handle too, btw. 🙂

Jason G June 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Thanks…yeah I supposed there were a few that turned to Insiders after the Atari wave. I always preferred the arcade over Atari. That was probably the most inside time I spent in the 80s, but unfortunately I didn’t live there so an hour or so while my mom shopped was it.

I guess I need to thank The League for the introduction!

Brian Morin June 28, 2012 at 11:39 am

Hands down, the most professionally written article in the history of USF. I’m very impressed. On top of that, you’re 99.44% correct.

Jason G June 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Wow. That’s gotta be the best complement I’ve ever received as a writer! Thanks Brian! This column kinda popped in my head while I was mowing the grass last night, LOL. I feel like I’m the Hannibal (A-Team) of yardwork.

So, out of curiosity…what is the .56% that is not correct?

Brian Morin June 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Nothing in my opinion. I just wanted to leave it open because someone might disagree with you.

Howie Decker June 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm

that’s why I hate math. So exact and you always have to show your work.

Classick Material June 29, 2012 at 8:43 am

Totally agree, Brian!
Awesome write-up, Jason! And I’m not just sayin that because I haven’t seen all Rain Man either…

Jason G June 29, 2012 at 10:29 am

Thanks, Classick!

Fogs June 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm

We also didnt have the instant options that people do now.

Its SO much easier now not to miss anything… everything is readily available to you eventually! When I was a kid, if you didnt see it in the theatre you may have never gotten the chance to see it!

Eventually VCRs and things became affordable and the video store era kicked in, but if you had missed something til that point, then you were faced with – do I cath up with this OLD thing I missed? Or watch this new stuff that’s out NOW?


And of course, playing outside. I broke a kid’s arm in a game of backyard football. Today’s kids will never know that joy. 😀 !

%#&%in’ Mario.

Jason G June 30, 2012 at 10:12 pm

I remember faceplanting a snowman I built during a game of football in the winter…surprised it didn’t knock me out. I learned to look down field before catching the ball. Guess that’s why I never mounted to a wide receiver.

But no matter what it was doing outside…that’s where you wanted to be.

I get a kick out of all those Super Mario sprite vids on youtube where he like looses a head or an arm.

More0_0Than July 3, 2012 at 7:32 am

Great piece Jason, we were just on that cusp. Even better I grew up in a small town so it wasn’t uncommon to be gone 2-3 days staying with this friend or that, only going home long enough to change clothes and swap out toys. My kids like to play outside, but living in the city and all the stories of missing and exploited children changes the game.

Howie Decker July 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

The term “the good old days” and “things were different back then” get thrown around but regarding points like this it is 100% true. These experiences sound familiar. My dad was a cop though, so the more stuff he saw as the years went by, the stricter he became. Less sleepovers and unsupervised bike trips as the 80s wore on.

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