I used to read a lot when i was younger (well, relatively anyway) and while i still enjoy a good read i’ve found that i’m beginning to encounter some problems when doing so. It’s happening with film and TV, to a lesser extent, as well so i’m pretty sure that it’s not that i’m just going through a patch where i’m not too bothered to read.
During recent years i’ve had to put a few books down. I had to stop reading them for a day or two because i couldn’t stand what was happening in the story, not because it was stupid or annoying but because the story happened to visit places that i’d prefer to not travel to…. rape, forced marriage and lovers missing each other’s intentions and what-not (i’m not into romance novels though these examples clearly seem to indicate that they’re what i’m reading!).
At first i thought that this was because i’m adverse to these practices or perhaps emotionally tied to the characters who are missing each other’s interests but i’ve noticed a similar trend in my visual media consumption too. I turn off TV shows if the plot isn’t going where i like it to or if i feel that the plot devices are just too silly or stupid to make any kind of sense. This led me to believe that perhaps my attention span has been reduced by the constant “quick media” influx over the last two decades as is so often portrayed in the news media.
However, today i had a revelation. I don’t have a short attention span - i can play games or read books/watch movies for many hours at a time… i can have stimulating conversations or play complicated board games at length. My attention span isn’t short, it’s just that i have been taught to use my freedom to better choose what i consume or do. At the same time i think that playing games has also influenced my (and probably others’) perceptions of how i am allowed to consume various media. In games, *I* am the protagonist, i don’t always have a choice in what i do but at least i’m the one driving the interaction and progression. In games that give me a choice, i play a role (and since i’m the unimaginative sort i usually play the ideal role i’d like to live up to in real life) and that affects how i experience the game and it plays out. In films/TV and books i don’t have this interaction, i’m passive to the ongoings of the characters and i don’t know where the story is going or at what pace. At the same time, these strengths to the traditional media are making me balk at interacting with them in the same way because i’m used to acting on the knowledge given to me in a way that is impossible in pre-determined media. I want to step in and stop that rape, create a character to do so perhaps since i have no agency in that world. I want to play matchmaker between two forlorn lovebirds, befriend them and make them happy. I’m sure that some people would prefer the opposite or different results from these scenarios but they are equally as unable to affect the world.
In playing games i have spoiled myself i have created a god-like complex that makes me think i’m entitled to edit, change and manipulate the worlds in my media…. i pick out ‘flaws’ that clash with my perceptions of what is right and wrong or what just doesn’t make sense and i want to change them to fit my beliefs and desires.
*I* am player character…. do as i wish.
While i’m now aware of this and i can perhaps temper my feeling when entering these situations a little, is this leading to something bigger?
At the moment the web is all ado about web 2.0: user-created content and involvement. In the past it was all about what was fed to us by outlets… but even then (and even more so now) the news industry has always had a symbiosis with the consumers. We supply news, we create it and we devour it from the carefully crafted reports given to us by the news companies. Is this a hint of what’s to come? We’ve all heard of ghost writers - people who help out or completely write a novel or story in the name of another person. David Perry (and Acclaim) started a game design for a project that was/is a collaboration between users and developers - they have a say in what happens and contribute to the development process as well.
Is the next big ‘media’ evolution co-existing with the current generation? In thirty years time will we be talking to authors, giving feedback and helping to write our own collaborative stories? Will our visual media be the same? It’s an intersting concept and a nightmare in the making (as i’m sure Perry found out during the early parts of making the Top Secret project) but it seems like a logical extension of where we are and what we desire in our media.
So, what do you think?