Monday, May 2, 2011

Entertainment Tomorrow

I am sure anyone who bothers to read this blog has noticed I fixate mostly on games, and occasionally other forms of entertainment. A lot of my political views and such are also related to things like copyright and consumerism. So I want to take this time to sit down and share some of my views on the subject:

Why entertainment is important:

Entertainment in some form or another has been a important part of human civilization for almost as log as it existed. People may not thing the entertainment industry is a big deal, but if you think about how much time and money is spent by people on entertainment, and how passionately people follow this stuff, you may change your mind. Who tend to be the famous celebrities that most people recognize? Actors, musicians, sports athletes, writers, etc. All entertainers in some form. Sure powerful leaders may have the same fame, and a handful of inventors and scientists, but there are still tons of people who don't do much but entertain.

Along with that, I feel it's very possible that as science and progress grew and religion seemed more and more silly by a lot of people, fiction started to replace myth, and fandom started to replace old religious practices. Where before myths of spirits and gods motivated people to do strange rituals in the woods by the full moon, now fans start elaborate little cults to worship their favorite show, with rituals such as conventions and dressing yup as there favorite character. I am sure a whole essay can and has been written on that subject, and I probably mentioned it before, so I will say no more, except that entertainment is no longer entertainment to most people.

The difference between entertainment and art:

Entertainment by it's self doesn't have a much grander goal then giving a person a way of occupying time without doing actual work. And in fact the reason entertainment even exists is because when building early civilization mankind suddenly started to need to work less and less, and had more free time for which to do things. Entertainment is often treated as an alternative to work, but that's not it's function.

I have said before that "art is about invoking an experience or idea though different mediums. It is an act of reflection of experience or ideas". Perhaps it would be better to narrow that definition a bit, at least in this case. Art also probably was mostly invented to fill a gap, and that gap was meaning. At the same time entertainment started to emerge, art did to. This time the question was not so much "what should I do with my time" as it was "what does what I do what my time mean". By coming up with ideas of beauty and other things, and trying to express those ideas some way, art attempts to come up with a meaning that people can connect to, a drive to do things. I could go on and speculate that science, religion, philosophy, and other things are all also related to this revolution of free time, but thats besides the point.

The point is, entertainment and art are not the same thing yes, but they are deeply connected in a very fundamental way and come from the same root source, that human civilization has long since stopped being driven simply by survival. Thats simply not enough for us anymore.

Why entertainment might not be enough either:

Entertainment is a necessary thing to have of course. Even pets to be taken care of need more then just food, water, and a place to poo. Playing is an important part of a pets life. However few I think would dispute that humans can't be satisfied with such a simple life. Humans need meaning. Humans need art. Or do they? How much on TV and in films can you truly say give you a concept of meaning? Probably more then you might think, but there is a lot of "mindless entertainment" out there that is little more then the equivalent of jigging keys at a baby. Not that that is bad really, it just serves a different function.

Werther or not humans need art or entertainment, probably just depends on the person. If a person has no personal need for meaning, ether because they already came up with a meaning for what they do, or if they simply aren't introspective enough to care, art becomes mostly pointless. We could go into a whole discussion on if people should strive to find meaning or not, but that's not really relevant right now, even though in general, I would say yes.

But even discounting art, the same entertainment can get old and stale. Entertainment is constantly being driven by a need for more. More movies, more music, more games, more books, more everything. And most of it is pretty bad, but it's still worth it to people to do more. But just more of the same isn't enough for people I think, we also want something new, something to innovate and to inspire. If we didn't we would just be satisfied playing pretend with rocks like a small child.

Why the way we entertain ourselves should change:

The thing is, something new and innovative is exactly what the entertainment industry bad at, and they seem to often be even worse at doing art at times. The industry is run in the name of profit not in the name of entertainment or art. It likes safe investments, predictable trends, sequels, genres, and doesn't really care about how good the product is as long as it sells well, and will often meddle in it's own product to get a few extra sales.

Furthermore, entertainment has become way too expensive and addicting. We no longer seem to use it to enrich our lives, but instead let it control our lives. I do think fiction of various forms such as games and films are valuable besides their entertainment value, for artistic merit, or for the spread of cultural memes, but I don't think all our time and money should be spent on them either.

The real problem I guess, is that we live in a culture where entertainment is a big and binding thing, something people flock to in droves and use to define who they are as much as their political or religious beliefs. And the industry pumps more and more money into bigger and bigger things, without really delivering much substance or innovation. Entertainment is to most people no longer something people can do on their own within a reasonable budget.

Things that may help:

First, one thing that is happening already is a number of people are moving away from big budget industry entertainment. People in the "indie" crowd for various media are growing stronger, and entertaining things can be found online for free which are growing in popularity. The internet is full of ways to entertain yourself for nothing or almost nothing. Cell phones often come with free or low cost games, music and other options. The biggest problem is that as these alternate entertainment venues become more popular, the industry will try to get in on it. This has already started to happen on the internet as more and more things become commercial or copied by bigger budget cooperations. Even free ones are often plagued with advertisement and other meddling. In the end, unless we don't stop this trend, we will have changed the medium but not the problem.

There is one way we can attack the industry at it's core, and that is by reforming (or even ignoring) copyright laws. Copyright laws were created to give people an incentive to innovate by guaranteeing a brief time where you could produce the work without competitors. The problem is, that brief time was extended again and again and is used more as a way of controlling something and forcing others to do things the way you want to do it then protecting innovation. If copyright was extremely reduced or demolished, the industry would no longer have an excuse to profit on entertainment as much. Would this mean that no entertainment would be created? No not at all. There are plenty of people who are still willing to create, and plenty of people still willing to donate to have things made. It would simply mean the end of the massive bloated monster that todays entertainment has become.

But really, when it comes right down to it, people don't need to change or break any laws, all they need to do is become more proactive and more choosy about how they entertain yourself. Do you really need to see that new blockbuster movie, get that new album, or play that new game? Can't you write or draw or something? Can't you browse the internet for free things to do? Can't you try dreaming up something, or going somewhere with friends? And I am not saying never spend money or anything either, I am just saying, let's choose how we entertain ourselves more carefully.

Really I guess most people are totally content with the way things are now, but this is just how I feel about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment