People are continually shifting how they create and consume their media and information. Cave paintings were once the pinnacle of human media, but we’ve come a bit further since then… With each new iteration of media though, there is bound to be some criticism. Video games are for weak minded man-children that never grow up and rot their brains. Television and films are a medium that allow degenerate messages to enter our children’s brains and limit true art like theater and plays. Novels will sap the moral compass of women and lead to sexual depravity. Instead of letting the detractors determine their course, authors, artists and creators bravely pioneered new works in emerging mediums. If they didn’t we’d be stuck painting on cave walls. With each new medium that develops there is a pushback against the emerging media, often with some valid criticisms, but nothing stops the incoming tide.
This was once the epitome of our artistic output. The hopes and dreams of a people, laid bare on a cave wall.
Of course, I don’t agree with these criticisms, but they existed for a reason. Video games can be simple microtransactions with repetitive grinding that have a negative hypnotic effect. Television became the babysitter for some households. Novels and print literature allowed almost anything to be published and distributed widely. These risks also bought great advancements. Instead of spending six hours playing tower defense, there are plenty of complex video games that stimulate the brain and show folks new and imaginative worlds they never thought possible. Beautiful films and in-depth television series have advanced thought and exposed people to history, philosophy and literature they might never have been interested in before. The print world has helped lay the foundation for the modern world.
Focusing on the downside of a new media will only hurt the critics. Look at all the failing media dinosaurs; Newsweek is on the verge of bankruptcy, movie theater attendance is dying off, and print books are struggling to reach an audience. On the flip side, independent bloggers and writers have filled the void that big corporations like Newsweek once held, Netflix and other independent studios create amazing original content, and publishing platforms like Amazon allow for first time writers to create some really good works we can all enjoy… And I also wouldn’t be here writing if this media and technological revolution never happened!
One of the hardest criticisms to overlook are the ones commonly leveled at video games. People just sit around for hours on end, wasting their lives playing video games and never experience the real world. They don’t create a product, they don’t interact with each other… It’s just Skyrim (one of my favorite video games) or Dark Souls (one of my most frustrating video game experiences) 24/7. Society becomes isolated, and people cloister themselves away.
Playing this game was a great experience.
These are real criticisms, but I also think they can be a bit debunked. Kids that play video games have access to an open world. They learn a sense of imagination and critical thinking when they solve puzzles. Obviously, it should go a step further if you want to truly improve your life using some of these new mediums. Play a video game in a language you are learning to boost your language learning skills. Develop new levels using acquired coding skills, or use the feelings inspired while playing to write a book or engage in some discussion with fellow fans.
Looking at amazon and independent authors, Kindle has allowed authors who otherwise would go unpublished or unknown to explode on the scene, Sure, the barrier to entry is extremely low, but people can put out a quality work and interact with a genuinely passionate fan base and improve their work. Likewise, authors that produce quality work who might never gain exposure can actually make money off of their ebook sales while still working with traditional publishers and agents.
The late 19th Century was a great time to be a playwright. Ibsen’s plays and George Bernard Shaw made lots of money off publishing plays. These plays though, while produced locally, were also readable and enjoyable for the masses; they were meant to be that way. While Ibsen did not experience financial and artistic ruin with the advent of film, people did shift away from the more traditional media viewing and consumption. This happened even more with the shift from “Silent” to “talkie”. Actresses and actors found themselves out of work when their voice and mannerisms did not translate well to a “talkie”.
Movies, cars. Changing times, and words that have changed over the years too!
Regardless, whether you are an actor in a silent film, a publisher in the late 1990’s, or a hollywood film company, if you failed to adapt and change with the new media, you were left behind. Out of this though, there are success stories of people who made the pivot. Actors can pursue their own creative interests and use their star power on Netflix to attract an audience to their pet project. Publishers can sell ebooks using their name recognition but without having to worry about the cost of warehousing, paper and ink. Embracing the future is a good thing, even if it makes us temporarily uncomfortable.
YouTube, Facebook, twitter and a slew of other networks, sites and tools have shown us that anyone can be a successful content creator. As a consumer though, this means we need to be more discernful than we were in the past. There is very little in the way of a “filter” and plenty of folks would be content watching cat videos all day. To combat this, I always try to find something that will engage me and make me a better person. Sometimes this means just simply listening to some music and relaxing, or enjoying a new show to take your mind off of the daily grind.
…At the end of the day, more media isn’t really a bad thing. Not everyone wants to play video games, some people do not watch TV, and plenty of folks still consider themselves bookworms and enjoy reading. And that’s okay. We have more options, but we also have larger reach. Just reading a book, or watching a movie is fine. People will always find a way to criticize; I get plenty of critiques for not “posting videos” or doing affiliate marketing (what could I affiliate market anyway? Slightly controversial history websites that take stands on Roman Grand Strategy?), but as people, more mediums means more choice. To me, that’s a good thing.