Here we are, the end of a decade. It seems weird to think that in ten years I went from a dorky know-nothing schoolkid, to a semi-professional MA graduate. But personal anecdotes aside, this has arguably been the most impactful decade for media since the 70s saw the start of the Blockbuster.
In ten years, we’ve bid farewell to DVDs and MP3 players, and created an entirely new market in the form of streaming services. Not only that, but technology has transformed our lives drastically.
So, as we count down to midnight, I wanted to take a look back at how media became so disrupted during this decade.
Gaming may be a weird place to start, but it is important. I believe it’s in gaming where we see the greatest change in audience behaviour; something that is occurring across all media.
Think back to 2010. The iPhone had penetrated the mainstream, and we saw our interactions with media drastically change. We could listen to music anywhere, download and watch MP4s on the go, and most importantly consume and produce. 2012 saw games like Slender: The Eight Pages give us a reason to watch and react; and it was this level of engagement that defines this decade.
There was a moment when YouTube really started to take off in this new media era. Millennials and Gen Z could interact with more authentic characters, and watch film reviews, let’s plays, and more direct forms of content. The camera was everywhere, and anyone could film and upload themselves with a personal brand.
YouTubers like PewDiePie and Ninja took a generation by storm with online media of this nature. It’s no surprise that in this year’s YouTube rewind, we saw games like Fortnite and Minecraft garner and 60.9B views and 100.2B views this year alone.
Video games really became more audience-driven and for me this is most-clearly seen in the crowd-sourcing phenomenon of 2014: Twitch Plays Pokémon. In giving control of a single Pokémon game to hundreds of thousands of players typing in commands, we saw a gaming event like no other; complete with fan created lore and art – for those in the know “Praise Lord Helix.”
This is why I wanted to start with video games as a topic. Much like film, television, or other media, it’s a way to gauge how engaged an audience is. Whereas originally it was simply a case of going out, buying a VHS, DVD, or game cartridge and maybe playing/watching with friends, now there’s an entire online community to interact with.
In essence, we’ve seen a generational transition as audiences grow increasingly invested in the media they consume. With upcoming developments in VR and (more significantly) AR I imagine this trend will continue well into 2020 and beyond.
THE STORY IS EVERYWHERE
Going back to film and television, there’s no doubt that this will be remembered as the streaming service decade: Netflix. Amazon Prime. Disney+ … to name a few.
As DVD sales have diminished, producers look to safer box-office hits, with more experimental television series. Think of how much variety there was for cinematic releases. 2010 gave us the release of Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus; a surreal adventure at the $30 million budget mark. Now think about what we get in theatres now; Disney remakes, superhero movies, big budget blockbusters, and horror. Others have observed the lack of theatrical variety, and it boils down to the disrupted film business.
Now, the creative opportunities lie in streaming services and “television.” Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Rick and Morty; all substantially greater risks than your Disney remake or superhero blockbuster. In a sense, the streaming services created a “Golden Age of Television,” offering increasingly niche, diverse viewing experiences that can cater to anyone.
Perhaps most important is how the franchise model has changed, and how story has changed with it. Take the MCU; although beginning in 2008 it was 2012’s Avengers that truly solidified the cinematic universe. In the creation of a shared interconnected story, films become more collective – i.e. following different characters and their role in a larger narrative. It’s a storytelling technique that defined Game of Thrones for television and the MCU for film.
This collective storytelling is something that I don’t believe would have been possible without such a drastic change in technology. Keeping up with different characters, different story threads, and different genres isn’t easy to do; especially in a pre-streaming world. But now, when we’re easily able to catch up with any plot points, there’s such an opportunity to create immersive storyworlds.
INTO THE 2020s
When I was younger, we had this DK Eyewitness books simply called Future. I vividly remember a section called The Year 2020 which featured a young kid playing violin with a virtual holographic teacher, whilst the mother chatted with her friends on the other side of the world through a TV set – imagine my 2004 kid brain being blown away by that!
But I think it’s strangely accurate to where we’re headed. There are ever-expanding ways in which we interact with our media, and whilst it may not be quite there yet, consider the advancements we’ve seen in AR with things like Pokémon Go. We already live in a world of virtual influencers, and we’ve seen a generation hungry for immersive audience-driven products; whether it’s film, television, or gaming.
If I were to predict a trend, as boldly as that may be, I’d keep an eye on the virtual; not necessarily with VR (although we can expect that to naturally develop) but with AR and our media icons. Heck, this decade we could even see the smartphone disappear entirely; to be replaced with some sort of sleek 5G AR-glasses.
Look at the developments we’ve had this year alone. We saw a rise in virtual influencers to follow on Instagram, we’ve seen the introduction of Google Stadia and Apple Arcade, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch gave us a taste of interactive viewing, and I “fell in love with Colonel Sanders” as part of a KFC marketing push!
We’ve seen immersive media take hold, and we can certainly expect these trends to continue. The question now is, what do we create?
Have a happy 2020, and feel free to follow for more multimedia analysis.