Over the last 30 years interactive digital media has gone from being seen as novelty to something ever present. The Internet and video games have become multi-mullion dollar platforms where companies compete for the attention and money of the consumers much like television, radio, and movies have through out the 20th century. The Internet has grown from being able to access bulletin board and databases in to the intricate World Wide Web. Since it’s debut over 20 years ago the Web has become the largest source of entertainment and information available. Before the availability of services such as Netflix, iTunes, Pandora, and others, consumers would have to wait for the correct time when their TV series or movie would be available for view or hope the song they wanted to listen to came on the radio. There was also the option of purchasing VHS of movies and albums or singles for songs. Now there entertainment media is “on demand” and consumers can chose not only what and how they consume but where and when. Video games have changed from simple, monochromatic games, to not-so-simple, polychromatic games, to being connect to the Internet where you can play with people any where in the world.
Both of these forms of media offer or require actions from the user beyond activation and selection. The Web offers comment sections, forums, and share-ability on platforms that have come to be called “social media.” The social aspects of the Web provide a method for people to provide their input to content creators, to make content themselves, or just to share every banal moment of their lives. This particular medium of nigh-instantaneous digital transmission of information provides access to an audience size that previous forms of media simple would be incapable of doing. However, the content of this medium is no different from the prior forms. The Internet is merely an distribution platform for raw information but given a high enough bandwidth and a low enough latency anything can be broken down into raw information at one terminal (a computer) and reconstructed at another terminal at any point. It is the ultimate medium conceptually because even if someone were to be develop a whole new protocol for data transmission, any improvement on distribution would just be a more efficient version of the idea.
Unlike the Internet, the interactivity of video games is required. This is of course the point as indicated by “game” being part of the name. These games have grown from simple facsimiles of real world activities to the include storytelling and fantastical speculations of books and movies. They even can connect to the Internet to allow multiplayer with those not in your immediate presence. The ability to give interactivity to any aspect of entertainment opens possibilities for stories be operatic saga about soldiers in space to existential looks at fear, oppression, and/or paperwork. (Seriously, play Papers Please.) The possibility are endless as the imagination. This is both a blessing and a curse. Just because the creator’s imagination can conceive some intricate world this doesn’t mean the player will be interested or capable to experience everything put into it. Artistry becomes something reactive in this age of interactive media.
Artists and other content creators are able to receive instant feedback now and this means that those who invest in such things pay attention to what the masses desire. This can lead to increasingly derivative content being released and thus stifling or at least hindering any new ideas that may be just as popular. While this scenario has always been true the rate at which this can happen in current times is the major issue. Since it is easier to follow trends now that information is available immediately and providing the infrastructure to support the output of content needs more and more producers, new ideas get left behind faster now. Those interested in producing new ideas and content need to work harder and increasingly at their own expense to have their creations reach the wider world. Fortunately, the same platform that easily stifles new ideas with its enormity provide spaces for these independent creations to be found easily by those interested in finding the new and interesting. At least for now.