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Millenial Nostalgia for Kids and Adults

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’ve heard something about Pokemon Go, the augmented reality game that has zombie-like hordes congregating in malls, libraries, and even cemeteries, studiously watching their smartphones.

You may love the game or hate it. You might focus on how it does a great job at getting kids outdoors and moving, or you might focus instead on how it’s making people drive like idiots. But I don’t want to talk about that today. I want to talk about what this says about our generation and nostalgia culture.

Nostalgia Marketing is Incredibly Powerful
Pokemon Go has had 26 million daily users at its peak. They say the game is worth 29 billion. $3 million is spent per day on in-app purchases. It’s a huge deal! Now, the success of this game isn’t solely based in the fact that it introduces a new kind of technology to video games. Augmented reality has been around for a while, it’s just that no one has quite capitalized on it in the same way. One of the biggest reasons that Pokemon Go has made such a splash is because of the way that it appeals to Millenial nostalgia. A generation that obsessed over the new releases of Pokemon GameBoy games, who bought playing and trading cards by the millions, and who tuned in every week for an update on the saga of Ash and friends… that generation has grown up. They’ve got money to spend, and even a new generation of little ones to infect with Pokemon fever.

And the appeal to Millenial nostalgia is evident in other places too. Take a look at the reboots of old movies and show series. The hits on fluff posts like “20 things you remember if you grew up in the 90’s,” or the crazy success of Nickelodeons new flashback nights.

Where’s Your Golden Era?
Sure, nostalgia marketing is nothing new. Everything from Happy Days to the phrase “the great American songbook” capitalizes on the idea that there was a golden era that we’ve since lost. However, what’s striking to me about Millenial nostalgia is how focused it is on childhood things. I believe that nostalgia for previous generations has mainly focused on young adulthood, when they were young and coming into their power as adults. It’s that era from 15-30 when the body’s in its prime, when you’re finding your place in life, and when your culture and likes define the time and dominate the radio waves.

Wait… that’s the age group that Millenials are in RIGHT NOW. THIS should be our golden era. So why are we romanticizing our childhood? A time period when, I’d like to remind everyone, all we wanted was to be grown up.

I think that the ultimate anthem of this phenomenon is the chart-topper by 21 Pilots, “Stressed Out.” If you’re not familiar with it, check out the video:

I think that the answer to this occurrence (Millenials romanticizing childhood instead of building things NOW to romanticize later) lies in this song: “Out of student loans and treehouse homes we all would take the latter.” Millenials are growing up, and finding that it’s just not going the way we thought it would. “Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing in our face saying ‘wake up, you need to make money.’”

Life is Complicated
Sure, being an adult has always been complicated. It’s long included scary responsibilities and bewildering bureaucracy. However, we’re all crippled with an overwhelming amount of complications right now. So give me just a few minutes to whine about it:

Modern technology has complicated our world. We’re consuming more information in a day than our great grandparents did in their entire lives. Sure, this is a beautiful thing. We have answers for all of our curiosities, and anyone can watch a few YouTube tutorials and teach themselves how to play guitar… but it also leads to major information overload and decision-making burnout before kids even graduate. Maybe it has led to a devaluation of information in the minds of the youth.

A more connected world means more voices participating and therefore, more competition. It’s hard to rise to the top of a pool of millions of voices which are each given as much weight as the other. While this crowdfunding, equilateral balance is beautiful, it’s also tough to navigate.

More wealth means we’re all acting like moguls but trying to get by on middle class (or--yay!--intern’s) salaries. Moguls have financial advisors, personal lawyers, and assistants to take care of the busywork of life. Although we have more luxuries and opportunities than our grandparents did, no matter what social class they were in, we also have a lot more competition, so everything costs more.

Everyone’s offended, so sometimes we’re scared to make a move. In a way, it’s good that we’re no longer elevating one gender or race above all the others, but in a way it’s scary because it means there needs to be a new criteria for choosing our leaders, and we don’t seem to have figured it out yet.

Feeling Disenfranchised is Stupid
With the American presidential vote coming up, political involvement is an interesting gauge of demographics and their power. A low percentage of Millenials are planning to vote. Some of this is because the younger generation is frustrated or apathetic. It’s hard to classify a group including so many people, but the overall tone of Millenials is disenfranchisement.

My argument is that Pokemon Go proves a very different story: Millenials are incredibly powerful. Look at the purchasing power of our generation. That might seem like a stupid gauge of power, but in America, it’s sometimes the only power that matters. Purchasing power leads to cultural power, which leads to the power to classify an era. Furthermore, it influences the values and emotional climate of the next generation. It’s time to use that power for something more than reliving childhood.