The free to watch online show Pure Pwnage (a Canadian mockumentary about a pro gamer) summarizes what’s become possible thanks to new technologies. The continually dropping costs of entry for aspiring media creators (regardless of whether the medium of choice is video or text or interactive electronic games or music) has made it possible for people to make essentially anything and because of how common place computers networked together by the internet have become distribution is no longer a concern. The printing press may have in its time revolutionized the spread of text and ideas and with it the distribution of power and control over media but now not only can we match it we can surpass it. We don’t need publishers to create prink copies of books or record movies onto VHS cassettes or manufacture cartridges or discs. We don’t need to be restricted by the gate keepers of old era distribution methods because we have surpassed what they can offer us. But for some reason we still crave the attention of those gate keepers.
Pure Pwnage is going to have an eight episode season of new episodes air on the television station Showcase. My first response was that it was cool to see the show make it to television. As if its status as an online independent show made it less legitimate as a show then one aired on television. As if it being aired in a dying format would validate it somehow. Then I started thinking about it more and felt guilty for that reaction. It is already a legitimate series and shouldn’t need to be taken in my old school distribution methods to prove that.
I don’t even watch television. I download pirated copies of most of what I want to see and watch it on my computer. So why did I have that gut response? It’s not restricted simply to video. It’s the same thing with text. Even if print text was ever more reliable a source of information then the average internet site they aren’t anymore or at the least certainly won’t be for much longer. With print (everything from news papers and magazines to stand alone books) on the decline the first thing to go is fact checkers. Even with hired professionals doing there best to make sure everything’s correct there is still no way them to compete with the (ironically often criticized) hive mind of a wiki like Wikipedia. But we still have a bizarre respect for published authors that tends to be refused to even the most talented and successful online authors.
Maybe it’s a little too naive and utopian of an idea but I think the concept of for profit media production will end (or more realistically largely be marginalized) within my lifetime. People are already moving away from the old methods of entertainment and towards the new user generated and often free alternative. When people’s mindsets change to start judging content on its own merits rather then where it originated then media companies will have to more seriously compete against hobbyists for the opportunity to entertain and enlighten consumers (who quincidentally are for once no longer passive consumers in the media creation game) and you can’t compete very well against free. Fox and ABC will die but YouTube will thrive.
The main reason I’m bringing this up here (along with my being bored and in the mood to type) is that this all applies to video games. It’s already happening. Even once heavily restrictive console makers are opening up to it. Just look at Microsoft’s indie game support on 360. Homebrew is slowly becoming main stream. How long will it be until the next Halo or Modern Warfare are made for free by a indie developer (not me my games are shit but there are other more talented people out there with a fondness for open source freeware) rather then a for profit dev team?