If you take the cultural temperature of the Internet (rectally, of course), you'll find it pretty cool on modern day media, overall. Movies are stale. TV is predictable. Games are repetitious. Books are, I don't know, inbred or something. The point is, we're very pessimistic about the state of storytelling in modern times. Now, I'm always down for a casual riot or a good old-fashioned effigy burning, but let's try a little optimism for once: If you look in the right places, there are some pretty cool things happening right now ...
4New Proprietary Instant Video Series
Amazon has been trying to get their filthy fingers all up in Netflix's peanut butter for a while. But now they're finally done poking at the periphery and are ready to go in full fist. Amazon recently greenlit a series of pilots, and they went straight to the users to see which should get approved for a full series. It seems so stupidly intuitive, you almost don't realize how impossible and brilliant it is. Do you know network TV still relies largely on the antiquated Nielson ratings system? What you watch -- even today, in our world of instant streaming, persistent connections, and fucking robots on Mars -- what you watch is still determined by randomly distributing data boxes to hateful hydrocephalics living in caves in the Ozarks somewhere.
Alphas got cancelled. Grimm is in Season 3. Clearly, there is no justice in this world.
You probably didn't even know this was a thing, but it's friggin' HUGE in the Ozarkian waterhead demographic.
The traditional pilot system is equally antiquated bullshit: The only way a show gets made is to make one episode of said show, preview it to a few coked-up studio heads, and hope that the soundproofing on their new Bentleys hasn't completely severed their last lingering connection to the common man. By showing pilots straight to the viewers and seeing what the overall interest is, we can -- gasp -- actually approve shows viewers want to watch, instead of greenlighting 18 wacky comedies about moving back in with your crotchety in-laws.
I mean, I'm not saying it's time for a celebratory Shotgun and Hooker Party just yet: I watched the Amazon pilots, or at least as much of them as I could before huge chunks of my brain started shutting themselves off to conserve energy. But the idea of distributing pilots online for viewer approval is sound. Why, if we had this system in place earlier, shows like Heat Vision and Jack would have easily made it to air, and we as a society could have all collectively gotten over Jack Black a few years early.
EVE Online, the spaceship-based massively multiplayer Intro to Accounting course, is getting its own show. But it's not adapted from the plot, or even loosely based on the world. The stories are being pulled straight from the anecdotes and experiences of the players themselves. It's a brilliant and novel move that will no doubt falter and explode in its creators' faces. But just because something is guaranteed to fail doesn't mean we shouldn't try it. The EVE show illustrates a relatively new concept: adaptations that are not only cross-media, but stride the line between interactive and passive participation. If you survive an epic enough double-crossing space battle in your game, all the while spewing pithy one-liners and making the hard choices others are scared to, you could theoretically turn around and sell that story to Hollywood. How crazy unlikely was that scenario, even two years ago?
I know the EVE/TV connection isn't unique. There are probably a thousand painfully pretentious pixel-art games that tie into YouTube in novel ways, but the really exciting part for the audience happens when the pure art concepts start leaking into the mainstream. And that's just now kicking into high gear:
If you're into generic space marine action and you're sick of literally every single other game that's been produced in the past 10 years, you can hop into Dust 514 and take your bottled-up aggression out on other virtual warriors across a series of different planets. The difference here being that, floating above that planet you're fighting on, EVE Online players are sitting in their mammoth bankships, strategizing and calling down orbital strikes. They can even hire groups of mercenaries -- the space marines playing Dust -- to carry out their cold and unfeeling whims, seamlessly merging the calculation of interest rates with the act of lobbing grenades into beefy dudes' groins.
Although, to be fair, nearly everything is made better with groin grenades.
I have no idea how well they pulled it off. I know the concept has a long way to go, and it's not fully interactive yet: You can't ditch your EVE ship to get viciously teabagged on Planet Grit below, and you can't teleport up to the EVE ships above to take out a space-loan -- but that's still two vastly different experiences merging two vastly different types of player, and having them interact, play with, and change one another. It's only a start, sure, but even journeys into fiery, raging badass start with baby steps.