Monday, May 15, 2006

Entertainment of the Future

The lines between entertainment and culture blurred a long time ago, but where it's headed is anyone's guess. Two articles that people Digged today bring that speculation to a head.

Loyd Case thinks that Microsoft gets it. The Xbox is now more of an Internet suite than a console, and what people want for entertainment is connectivity. With the Web 2.0 in full force, he may be right. Like the Web, video games are becoming more social, as evidenced by the popularity of mods and MMOG's, the convergence of which is Second Life. Entertainment secures its place in culture by becoming active rather than passive and breaking through the ennui of media consolidation.

On the other side, David Wong thinks that video games are about to crash. Despite rampant criticism from fanboys, his argument that the entire video game industry has been built on a rapidly waning novelty is hard to dismiss for those of us who have played through generations of games and are starting to see diminishing returns on creativity. The basic assumption of the games industry is that boys will never run out of bloodlust and marijuana, and although they're probably right, there are only so many thousands of virtual Nazis a boy can kill before he gets bored.

Surprisingly, they'd probably agree with each other. Wong is already predicting that we'll all live as Nietzsche's supermen as the natural extension of today's online games. But the fully digital lifestyle is more a pipe dream of extropians than reality, and opposition to radical technological process is a natural human reaction when all the claims of futurists don't add up. Case's incremental rise of online entertainment is more likely, but slowed in growth by Wong's video game dropouts who may turn to the increasingly interactive Web for the engaging entertainment that traditional video games no longer provide. The Web 2.0 thrives on these dropouts changing from content consumers to content creators. This blog, like 40 million others, is part of that fallout.

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