Friday, February 19, 2010

"The Only Thing I Know"

This video is all too familiar:

The creator/animator of this video, Brian, is going through a lot of the same thought processes and actions that I went through a year ago (which led to the creation of this blog). While he focuses mostly on video games, especially online multiplayer games, I also felt the same way about TV shows and any other form of entertainment which in the end "provide no lasting value". I agree the "Nintendo generation" is in danger of getting lost in the line between entertainment and reality. Living the life of a computer avatar, or living a life vicariously through "reality" TV, is not really living at all. There are so many forms of entertainment now that one could spend their entire life sitting in front of flashing rectangles and never realize what they are missing. Be it video games, TV shows, internet websites or a combination of them (Farmville, Youtube, the Tester, etc.), people spend far too many hours on activities which will provide no substance for them in long run. And entertainment has gotten so good at creating new "realities" that people don't care to enjoy the one true reality around them.

The sad thing is due to the nature of competition, both within the medium and against the other mediums, each source of entertainment is coming up with new ways to retain the interest of the viewer and prevent them from living a life beyond. In the case of video games, when I first started playing most games could be be finished in an hour or less and since there were only a relatively few games you could play all the new "good ones" over a weekend and move on with your life. But now if a game is less than 10 hours long, or does not include a multiplayer competition (which never ends), the game receives lower scores in reviews and will sell less copies. And there are many "good games" released every month, so many that there is no way you will be able to play them all (or get good enough in the multiplayer to truly enjoy it).

Other mediums are the same way. There are more TV channels than ever, and most shows are now story arc based so if you watch one episode you have to watch every season. In the past, most TV episodes were bite-size stand-alone stories. Now, sitcoms like "How I Met Your Mother" and the Office or dramas like 24, Dexter, and Battlestar Galactica have season long arcs that progress in every episode (so don't miss one)! And "reality" shows actually allow you to watch other people living out their "real" lives so you don't have to! Every show is trying to keep you hooked, and there are so many good shows that you don't have the time to watch them all. But we try anyways.

At least TV shows end at some point, usually a 22 minute session over 13-22 weeks. The biggest game currently, World of Warcraft, literally never ends. The game keeps expanding and gathering more subscribers (around 11 million currently) who pay $15 a month to live in a simulated fantasy world. The game makes more in a month than most movies make in their entire worldwide theatrical runs. The game is fun and, in a way, social. But unlike a book or a movie it will never end; there is always another task to do or goal to "accomplish". So the generation who grew up playing 1 hour games to completion get pulled into the game and never leave. (Not that this is the game/tv creators' fault, the viewers should be the ones who manage their time better).

This change from short term game completion to long-term obsession happened so gradually that many players in their 20's and 30's don't realize what has happened and are just doing what they have always done. There is no older generation who experienced this, screwed up, and are warning others to avoid it. We are the first to do this and suddenly the ill effects of this entertainment cycle are becoming more apparent to us. And it takes people like Brian to reach out to those around them and say "hey, this isn't actually good! Slow down and look what life we've missed!"

Let's hope people start listening to him before it is too late.

As for me, this blog is a small portion of proof that there is life beyond entertainment. As shown in my retrospectives, in the 7 months since I severely limited my TV and games I read more books, ran more miles, cooked more "fancy" meals, animated more videos, learned more guitar, and wrote more blog/journal posts than I did in my previous 27 years. Who knows what I will do in the next 7 months (or 28 years)?

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