A while back, I posted this article about consumerism and its effect on the individual. I got a couple of personal email responses from it, one from a lady who wanted to talk about the link between consumerism and Warcraft.
I nodded my head as I read her email, responded with some thoughts, and that was that.
I’m not sure why I thought about that this morning; I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that my work schedule has been a little wonky lately, and I find myself doing more work in the morning, necessitating a much earlier bed time, which leaves me without my unwind time at night.
We love our entertainment. I’m kind of a nerd/junky when it comes to entertainment. I watch television shows with too much meta-commentary and backstory; I fiddle around on my wife’s Ipad; I record music in my makeshift studio; I play games online.
After all of that, I have about negative 2.3 hours left in the day. And I still need to sleep.
I used to be a Warcraft player, spending too much of my time running around a fake world. I hated myself pretty strongly for it, which wasn’t good, because I’d inevitably fall into a shame spiral, causing me to play more.
But one night, after an extended amount of playing, I went outside to smoke a cigarette (I don’t do that anymore, in case you’re offended by that; I’m just being honest and setting the mood). I was sitting on my deck, which I built the summer before, and I started thinking about how ridiculous playing an online game was.
I spent all of this time building virtual wealth, and all I had to show for it were memories of playing the game. I had nothing that translated over into the “real” world.
Nothing like the deck that I was sitting on.
But then I thought about how atoms are made up of so much empty space (forgive my inability to grasp quantum physics; I got a liberal arts education and can barely understand this PBS article on atoms and “empty” space), and realized that the deck that I was sitting on was only as real as I allowed it to be.
Sure, I could sit on it, but what it represented was something greater: backyard aesthetics. It gave our house a more comfortable and comforting presence, and transformed our get-togethers into full-blown social functions. I went from a house-buyer to a homeowner.
Warcraft became something else, too. It was a shared language, a social catalyst (in certain circles to be sure), fuel for creativity, and escape from the day’s monotony. Sure I abused the effects; it’s hard not to when you’re a nerd and feel emasculated by the world around you (I had a collection of huge swords, was muscled, and slayed demons every night for crying out loud).
Damn, it took me a long time to meander closer to something resembling a point…
Today we are inundated with tons of different options regarding how we choose to spend our “leftover” time, after our work and chores are done, before we begrudgingly head off to bed. I am excited about the possibilities that the future holds, as we figure out how best to utilize new technologies to tell stories, communicate with friends, and share our own visions of art, thought, and creativity.
But I am not so naive as to think that the future will be all bright and rosy, filled with digital unicorns, rainbow bridges, and money made of hugs.
I don’t believe that new technology is necessarily the harbinger of doom, nor do I think that it will be our singularity-infused savior. It’ll probably be a mixture of the two, considering that technology itself is merely technology, like smooth rocks and spears. It’s more important what you choose to do with the technology, rather than what the technology makes you do. And I think that the distinction is important to keep in mind.
I can just as easily use my car to drive someone to the hospital as I can use it to run someone over, making them go to the hospital. The car isn’t evil; it’s the driver that chooses to be evil or chooses to be good.
New technology-fueled narratives and journalism can be good, inspiring, and culturally important, or they could be ego-feeding escape pods, recycling old, classically-conditioned biological responses.
Maybe we should be demanding more from the creators in our world. Demanding complex characters, convoluted storylines, and new approaches to real problems (as opposed to the typical codependent problems faced by so many sitcom characters. Seriously, how did the Friends characters spend so much time at the coffee shop bitching about problems instead of working their jobs?).
That’s why I love Community. That’s why I miss Lost (well, the first five seasons of Lost). That’s why I love The Old Republic. That’s why I love The Atavist, O’Reilly Media, Boing Boing, Clay Shirky, Cha Meeno, The Digital Bindery, and so much more.
What do you love and why?