But What If You…

Who’s steers the ship? That’s the imperative question in today’s age same as it has always been. Revolution to war to potholes—it’s one great swell of the tides.

Is it the mob? The charismatic bullhorn spiting rally leaders? The ahead of the curve intelligentsia? The money men behind drawn silk curtains? Who can say? And who knows knows well enough to keep their mouths shut.

When we zero this microscope on our own times the image blurs with our excitable ignorance. “Why’d they kill off my favorite character?” “Why’d my show get cancelled?” “The comic got in trouble for saying what? How?” All good questions that make life entertaining.

The audiences today have more contact and more potential power over an individual creator than ever before experienced. And that’s the key feeling. Experience. To know you were there, to leave your mark.

The most concrete example I can pull from modern (as of writing this piece) times, is that of WoolieVersus’ and MattMcMuscles’ let’s play of Telltale Games’ episodic Batman game. In their let’s play, the two hypothesized a dialog option for Batman when in discussion with some of Gotham’s other citizens. They scenarioed the humor of a ‘Grapple away’ option to end a conversation.

Sure enough in a later episode of the game this became an option. Furthermore, after the studio closed, Woolie confirmed that the ‘Grapple away’ option was directly inspired by the let’s play.

Indirect fan feedback became a change, a small change but still one, to a video game then in production.

This was in its way an optimal set of circumstances for the fans’ will to shape the product: The game was had just come out and its (effective) sequel was in early production and the proposal was small, flexible, easily implemented, direct, and constructive.

It’s tempting to say because of the two’s platform they had an ability to reach the developers beyond what the average audience member holds. It’s also undeniable that larger voices will have greater impacts be it from a singular celebrity or a million Joe Blow fans regardless of the quality of the comments. However, I say as a writer myself that, this criticism is the dream of any creator.

Critiques can often come across as too vague or hyperbolic or inapplicable to help the creative process.

“It’s too slow.”

“Okay. In what parts?”

“Kind of, places… You know kind of slow.”

“Thanks. Now I hate you.”

What also shapes the applicability of audience criticism is the medium of the product. Long form, long production cycle media such as books are not suited to this taxing upkeep.

When a book comes out and people give their feedback to the author, they’ll have to wait a very long time to see their advice bear fruit, if ever. An expert in Medieval weaponry might have solid advice about sword fighting that doesn’t apply to the next book the author writes (ex: modern day setting). The next book might be in a different genre with its own respective pacing, tone, character relationships, etc.

Compare this to the Marvel cinematic universe which can easily change the lampooned costume of a superhero or villain between two movies. Tropes that get overused can be subverted and then parodied in later films. This is all applicable here because the Marvel movies are fairly cookie-cutter.

Not the most insightful comment true. And I once had a story where I wrote in and killed off a friend of mine for giving advice I’d asked for. I was petty back then (I say as if I’ve shed the past).

In general, more instantaneous and repetitious mediums will be increasingly susceptible to audience influence. More classical examples of this would be stand-up comedy and professional wrestling.

Did people laugh at the joke? Comedy is cutthroat in this regard.

If people at your live show bring homemade signs with the catchphrase you made up last week, you’ve got some strong feedback and encouragement to pursue the element of your character the catchphrase highlights.

Streamers occupy this strange exponential interplay of audience interaction. Let’s plays as a concept are already an interactive version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Then, add on the audience’s ability to immediately comment and critique the let’s player as they play and the whole affair becomes a parody of itself.

The other side of the coin there is the fact the games are streamed live. Anyone watching on a delay of as little as five minutes can find their observations, criticisms, or jokes already dispensed or behind the wave of the rest of the audience’s reaction.

Watch life as it happened on double speed. Catch the gist of what’s going on in order to be caught up and part of the third echelon of entertainment which is the conversation of the entertainer’s delivery of the entertainment product.

Who controls this thing? Where are we headed? Is there a destination out there in that big, blue sea?

Asking anyone to remember a news story from a week ago is hard enough but the instantaneous fad nature of modern discourse renders any absence from the word on the street a death sentence to one’s relevance.

Chase this minute’s fifteen seconds of fame in a sparked frenzy to say something funny, insightful, referentially apropos. Then burnout the adrenaline and dopamine reserves in the next frenzy to have your opinion validated by strangers. How else can we be sure what we think has meaning in a place where the topic of conversation pivots before you can reflect on how you feel deep down about what’s going on or if you even cared in the first place before you saw what everyone else said.

Maybe the air outside is sweet this time of year but my nose is pressed on a smudged screen and my senses too stimulated to know anything for certain or carry concerns across the seconds. The virtual comfortably numb.

And for this leveled existence I shout at you content creators how best to drip feed me carelessness. When left alone with my thoughts, the walls start to wrap round my brain.

Wow, all this is depressing. Go relax with some tunes. Enjoy those three and a half minutes as long as the song plays. Live them.

Time is wasting time is walking

You ain’t no friend of mine

I don’t know where I’m goin’

I think I’m out of my mind

Thinking about time

Hootie & the Blowfish

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