30 July 2015

Social change vs becoming more responsible... vs the advertising world...

So, I'm old. Not so old I'm getting a retirement cheque any time soon but old enough to look back on things and see how those things have changed or turned out. So it's surprising for me to admit that things are getting pretty good for creators on the internet.

Okay, I'm sure there are plenty of creators struggling with stolen works and their (obviously valued) time and products being free-loaded by the likes of everyone and anyone... However, I feel that there is a slow change occurring in people's general perceptions and their conception of what it means to be a consumer.

Having "kickstarted" quite a few projects myself and having always had a mentality of "reward the creator" if not "reward those who create worthwhile things" I'm seeing many more websites growing up around the idea of charging for what you produce - rather than giving away for free but trying to make it back through advertising (like a fool!).

I, myself, spend a lot more money and am willing to spend that money more easily due to a variety of factors: First of which is that there are more reputable payment services than ever seemingly in use - not just the repressive Paypal! Even more than that - there are a lot more boutique services available as well, meaning that previous pseudo-monopolists with strict policies and archaic rules that are sporadically enforced (can't think of any right now, having long-since abandoned those services, though Ebay comes to mind as a potential suggestion) do not hold sway over business.

As the title of this little thought-piece suggests, I may not have always been in a position to make these purchases whilst consuming this media. Of course, I do not, for the most part, pirate - unless there is no other option available to me (see TV series in a location outside of the US and UK!). However, it's not that I've become more responsible but that I have been enabled by the proliferation of these services. I would love to consume more TV and film media but cannot due to lack of legal and reasonably-priced options. Gaming-wise, I'm okay. I haven't pirated a game (well, okay, I've never technically downloaded or pirated a game myself, only received discs from a friend) since my second or third year of university when I literally only had money to spend on rent and food. Do I feel bad about that piracy?

A little.

Not much though. The reason for that is because I do not see how my little bite of their creation actually harmed them in any way. In fact, I have become a huge consumer and sponsor of the gaming industry. Yes, I enjoyed something I didn't pay for (and didn't always enjoy or play for very long) but I also gained understanding and connection with an industry that I still champion to this day, despite the negative connotations surrounding it for the general population.

My girlfriend often has these conversations with her friends. She tells me she has a reputation to maintain and so goes out of the way to tell her friends just how into games I am. She speaks about the analysis, the money, the economics and art. She tells them that I understand what a game is because of where it lies in the grand hierarchy of gaming history (okay, those are my words, not hers ;) ). However, that does intrigue her listeners and friends.

I am pretty much uncaring as to their reactions in the way I would be uncaring to a person who told me that movies and TV were the devil's work, bringing the youth of the day to their doom...

However, that does make me think of advertising. Almost everyone I know despises advertising (except for the good adverts, which are few and far between!) in all media so it doesn't surprise me to see many people (including myself) using adblock and other similar programmes. What it does scream to me is how is advertising going to evolve and fit into the realm of "creators are directly funded by consumers" and "discovery of new creations is controlled by whichever nexus hosts them". 

Advertising may become a lost art-form. It's a strange notion, coming (as I do) from an era where discoverability was limited by the reach of an advertising firm's TV slot! Now it's all about social bandstanding, groundswell and grassroots... but that mentality, understanding and knowledge doesn't work in these emerging systems. 

Steam Greelight is a great example of this. Mobile store fronts and XBLA arcade, GOG, Origin and other similar features/ventures are also great examples of this. Discoverability is a huge problem and only becomes worse because it is and can be easier than ever to create something that is worthwhile to consume. A game may only be 30 minutes long but may still reach into your soul or subconscious and inform future thoughts... let alone just provide enjoyment for all of those precious seconds.

We're at a stage now where creators have or are coming to the fore. Like the days of patronage past whereby persons might say to their informed friends "Oh, I know a great guy/girl out of Prague. They're pushing the boundaries on the point and click adventure genre! I've been funding them for the last three years/projects and am very satisfied with their output so far. You should take a look if your interested!"

Though, most likely. it would be - try a bit of the game I have rather than "buy it yourselves". It comes back to this: art is shared. It always will be. You do and people will pay for it... but they will also share it through whatever means they have available to them. Advertising is more tricky, though, as it is an artificial construct around creation... I have no idea how that will progress going forward.

We are living and entering into a time that will espouse ideals and ideas - which will also reward those who produce those things and yet will also drown them in mediocrity because we are all capable of creation.

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